*This extension is offered in reverse, beginning Hanoi and ending in Saigon, for voyages beginning in Saigon and ending in Siem Reap.
Experience the flavors and customs of Vietnam on an eight-day extension to explore the imperial capital of Hue, visit the ancient town of Hoi An, and spend a night sailing among Lan Ha Bay’s spectacular limestone pinnacles. Plus explore the great city of Hanoi.
Hoi An, a vital trading center with China and Japan between the 16th and 18th centuries, retains its international flavor. The great Citadel and Forbidden City of Hue, Vietnam’s former imperial capital, evoke the grandeur of Vietnamese culture in remarkable fashion. The city of Hanoi has a lively old quarter, vibrant present-day culture and interesting monuments to Ho Chi Minh. And you’ll sail Lan Ha Bay, a tranquil part of the famous Halong Bay—which we’ll explore on an overnight voyage on the newly-refurbished Ginger.
You’ll travel in the company of a veteran expedition leader and well-informed local guides, and you’ll learn a great deal about the many things you see.
Day by Day
Day 1 - Saigon/Da Nang/Hoi An
We fly to Da Nang in the morning, then drive to Hoi An. Once a prosperous trading port, Hoi An has preserved its legacy very well, and its historic core, with its narrow streets, imparts the flavor of how life must have been centuries ago. After lunch, we check in to the fine MGallery Royal Hoi An. On our afternoon walking tour, we’ll visit old merchants’ houses, with Chinese, Japanese and Vietnamese influences; the Japanese Covered Bridge; the Assembly Hall of the Chaozhou Chinese Congregation, with outstanding wood carvings; and the colorful market with stalls carrying specialties such as silk (which can be turned into fashionable garments within a day, if you wish). The remainder of the afternoon is free to explore on your own or just enjoy the amenities of the hotel. Dinner is included at the hotel. (B,L,D)
Day 2 - Hoi An
This morning offers you a different view of a local market, as you visit the stalls and participate in buying fresh produce that you will learn to cook in Vietnamese style. Then take a boat, seeing scenes of life along the river, to a cooking school, where you’ll have a hands-on cooking class, later dining on the dishes you’ve prepared. Even if you have no prior interest in cooking, it is bound to be enjoyable. There is time this afternoon for further exploration on your own, and you may wish to have dinner at a local restaurant. (B,L)
Day 3 - Hoi An/Hue
After breakfast we drive northward, climbing the Hai Van Pass, with a panoramic view of the central coastline, before dropping down to the fishing village of Lang Co, located on a sand dune. We continue to Hue, the imperial capital between 1802 through 1945 during the Nguyen Dynasty, where we have a home-hosted lunch at a restored royal home. We then check into our hotel, Art Deco-style La Residence, located on the Perfume River. In the afternoon, we visit the Citadel, including the great gates, palaces and residences of the Imperial City and Forbidden City. The architecture and furnishings here are extraordinary. Dinner tonight is at our hotel. (B,L,D)
Day 4 - Hue
This morning we visit the fine mausoleum of the emperor Minh Mang, whose structures were built along a network of lakes. We then drive to the elaborate Khai Dinh Mausoleum, whose architecture contains elements of eastern art and western design. We continue to Thien Mu pagoda, Hue’s best-preserved religious monument, with a seven-story tower situated along the river. Lunch is included at a local restaurant. The afternoon is free to explore. Dinner this evening is at the hotel. (B,L,D)
Day 5 - Hue/Hanoi
We take a morning flight to Hanoi, where we check in to the Sofitel Metropole Hotel, recently chosen as one of Asia’s top three city hotels by Travel+Leisure readers. In the late afternoon, we tour Hanoi’s old quarter by “cyclo” to see its colorful streets, shops and markets, many selling the same wares they’ve sold for hundreds of years. Later, enjoy dinner at a local restaurant. (B,L,D)
Day 6 - Hanoi
With ochre-colored colonial buildings, tree-lined boulevards and scenic lakes, Hanoi is full of interest. We begin at the Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum, an imposing monument of marble and granite, where Ho Chi Minh’s preserved body resides. A short walk away is the tiny One Pillar Pagoda, which rests on a single stone pillar emerging from the water. We will have lunch at a local restaurant. Then, continue to the Temple of Literature, the first university for sons of mandarins, for a look at Hanoi’s history and traditional architecture. The rest of the afternoon is free for further exploration. (B,L,D)
Day 7 - Halong Bay/Lan Ha Bay
After breakfast, we drive to the Vietnamese coast for our overnight sail on Lan Ha Bay, on the southern border of Halong Bay. As a special convenience, we’ve arranged for you to keep your hotel room in Hanoi, so you don’t have to pack and unpack. At Lan Ha Bay, we board the outstanding Ginger, built in the style of a junk, for an overnight sail on the bay. As we sail, see the dramatic limestone peaks for which the Halong Bay area is famous. Cruise among them and have a chance to enjoy the myriad formations. In the afternoon we’ll take a short journey to a nearby village to meet with locals and learn about their lifestyle. We spend the night aboard ship. (B,L,D)
Day 8 - Lan Ha Bay/Hanoi
Wake up early to catch sunrise on Lan Ha Bay, with more time to take in the extraordinary landscapes, before exploring via kayak or swimming. We’ll have a late breakfast on board, then disembark and drive back to Hanoi, returning to our rooms at the Sofitel Metropole Hotel. Pay a visit to the outstanding Vietnamese Museum of Ethology this afternoon where you’ll have ample time to learn about the wide variety of cultures found throughout Vietnam and explore examples of some of their tribal homes. Dinner is at your leisure this evening. (B)
Day 9 - Depart Hanoi
Transfer to the airport in the morning for flights home. (B)
Costs & What’s Included
Double Occupancy: $7,260/pp
Single Occupancy: $8,740/pp
Accommodations as shown in the itinerary, or similar; meals as shown in the itinerary, local flights Saigon-Da Nang / Da Nang-Hanoi, tips to local guides, to porters and to waiters for included meals, airport departure transfer.
Tips to waiters for meals that are not included, items of a personal nature such as laundry, Internet access and alcoholic beverages.