Vietnam and Cambodia discovery tour meeting local people
A full day tour of Hanoi, in the morning visit Ba Dinh Square to see Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum, the museum where Ho Chi Minh worked and lived in a simple house, and his "house on stilts", his last place of rest. Visit famous One Pillar Pagoda in Hanoi, built in 1049, similar to a lotus flower.
The visit continues at Literature Temple, dating back to 1070 and dedicated to the worship of Confucius, then visit Ethnology Museum, where you'll observe the fascinating cultural diversity of this ancient land. In the afternoon visit the ill-famed Hoa Lo prison, known as "Hanoi Hilton" during the Vietnam war, then continue to the Museum of National History of Vietnam.
Enjoy a cyclo ride in Hanoi old town district, a network of narrow alleys, houses and shops, also known as "36 streets". This is a wonderful place to observe local life, see shops selling all sorts of goods from handmade fabrics to exotic medicines. In the late afternoon you'll attend a water puppet show, a fascinating art form originated in North Vietnam.
Free time for shopping in the historic district until the transfer to Hanoi station for an overnight train journey to Lao Cai in air conditioned cabin (4 people/ cabin).
In the morning arrival at Lao Cai station and transfer by bus to Sapa. After breakfast in a local restaurant continue by car to Lao Chai village, where you'll meet people of H'mong minority dressed in their traditional clothes.
Visit Ta Van village, the village of the Zay minority. In the afternoon visit Ham Rong mountain where you can admire the wonderful view of the city, with the chance to take incredible pictures. Return to Sapa and free time for shopping at the local market and visit to the Cathedral. Overnight in Sapa.
In the morning depart to Bac Ha market. This Sunday market is attended by many ethnic groups, including H'mong, Tay and San Chi minorities. A real feast for the eyes and a treat for photographers. In the afternoon viist the ethnic villages of Ban Pho and Na Hoi. Departure by night train from Lao Cai station to Hanoi. Air conditioned cabin (4 people / cabin).
The train arrives in Hanoi in the early morning and on time for breakfast and some sleep in an early check-in room. Morning departure to Halong Bay. You'll cross the rich farmlands of the Red River Delta. Once at Halong pier, embark on a cruise among the splendid islands emerging from the tranquil emerald sea. Seafood lunch and exploration of the Surprise Cave, one of the most beautiful grottoes of the bay.
Dinner and overnight on the junk.
In the morning coffee and tea will be served on the terrace after a Tai Chi class, while we continue to explore splendid Halong Bay and the floating village. Lunch with Vietnamese and Western cuisine. Leaving the junk, we'll travel to Bac Ninh Province to learn more about the charming history and culture of Vietnam through a traditional music show in Quan Ho. In the late afternoon flight to Danang, from where you'll continue to the nearby Hoi An. Arrival and check in to the hotel of the chosen category. Overnight in hotel in Hoi An.
Morning sightseeing in Hoi An, full of buildings with a Chinese influence in the architectures, bearing witness to its past importance as a trading center. Once known as Faifo, Hoi An was a lively trading port since the 2nd century during the Champa rule.
After its decadence in the 14th century, it regained its function as international emporium in the mid 15th century. Only in the 19th century, with the landfill of Cai River, did it lose its importance to Danang, 30 km north. Visit the old town and the Japanese bridge from 1592, the temple dedicated to Fukie goddess and the old houses.
Lunch in a local restaurant. In the afternoon depart to Hue, a city founded in 1687 along the banks of the Perfume River, the capital of Southern Vietnam since 1744, and capital of the country from 1802 to 1945 under the rule of the 13 emperors of Nguyen dynasty. Arrival and check in to the hotel of chosen category. Overnight in a Hue hotel.
Breakfast. Morning dedicated to sightseeing in Hue; the Old Town, with the Citadel and the imperial house, lies on the left bank of the river, while the New Town (where the Europeans used to live) and the imperial tombs are located on the right bank. Visit the imperial citadel, now renovated with the aid of the Unesco and Tu Duc imperial tomb.
At the end, enjoy a ferry ride on the Perfume River to Thien Mu Pagoda. Lunch in a local restaurant with cooking class during the visit. After a relaxing feet massage transfer to the airport for the flight to Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon). Arrival and transfer to the hotel of chosen category. Overnight in a hotel in Hi Chi Minh.
Full day tour of Ho Chi Minh City, in the morning the guide will meet you at your hotel with a car to take you to Cu Chi. Enjoy the panoramic ride through the countryside, where people work in the ricefields, and where you'll see thatched huts along the way. Visit a rice paper factory in a local village, a well known product, used to make delicious rolls. You'll reach Cu Chi tunnel to explore the 151-mile subterranean network starting at the southern tip of Ho Chi Minh, near Cambodia, to Saigon River.
Cu Chi is very interesting to understand a vital fact about the guerrilla fought by the Vietnamese, both against the French and the Americans. These tunnels were built at the end of the 1940s from local partisans looking for a place to hide weapons from the French army,
You'll see secret passages, camp hospitals, command posts, subterranean kitchens, living areas and meeting rooms. Return to Saigon in the afternoon to explore Ho Chi Minh City with an experienced local guide, visiting the former Presidential Palace, now called Reunification Palace, the former American embassy, Saigon river, War Remnants Museum, Jade Pagoda, Notre Dame Cathedral from the 15th century, the Post Office and Ben Thanh market. Overnight in Ho Chi Minh.
Departure from the hotel in the early morning, then cross the Mekong delta to Cai Be. Here you can observe the Mekong River Delta (Nine Dragon River Delta), an unforgettable experience. You'll visit the candy factory, the fruit orchard and listen to traditional music of South Vietnam, while having lunch in an old house.
After lunch cross the island in the middle of the river by rowing boats, to learn more about the life of the local people residing along the banks of this magical river. In the late afternoon continue to Chau Doc and overnight.
After breakfast transfer by speedboat along the Mekong river to Cambodia. Upon arrival Phnom Penh international port meeting with the local guide and direct transfer to the hotel for check in. Visit the Royal Palace, built in 1866 by the predecessors of king Norodom, the most noticeable feature of this khmer palace being its yellow color.
Near the Royal Palace is Silver Pagoda (the temple of the Emerald Buddha), where you can see a huge collection of Buddha statues decorated and made with diamonds, emeralds, gold and silver. Continue on to the National Museum. The picturesque red building in sandstone, a nice example of khmer architecture, built in 1917 and hosting over 5000 art objects in sandstone, bronze, silver, copper wood and more.
Then visit the Monument of Independence, built in 1954 in memory of the liberation of the country from French settlers. Overnight in Phnom Penh.
After breakfast, transfer to the airport to fly to Siem Reap. Arrival at the airport in Siem Reap, meeting with the driver and transfer to the city. We travel through a rural landscape towards a small but cosy temple, Banteay Srei. This temple is mainly built in pink sandstone, a harder stone that can be sculpted in more detail and resists better to the wearing of the time.
This is the chance to take good photographs of the light detailed scupltures. Visit Banteay Samre: its walls in pink sandstone are decorated with sculptures and basreliefs, some of the most interesting in Angkor. Early morning visit in order to avoid the crowds at the photogenic Ta Phrom Temple, famous due to "Tomb Raider" movie.
Ta Phrom was abandoned in the jungle, reminding men that while empires have gone through rises and falls, the immense power of nature goes on, regardless of the tragedies of human history. The temple was discovered by the French explorer Henri Mouhout in 1860. The roots of the trees like tentacles have slowly strangled the surviving stones. First man conquers nature and creates, then nature destroys what man has conquered. Overnight in Siem Reap.
After meeting the guide, transfer to Angkor Thom for the visit; Angkor Thom was the masterpiece of King Jayavarman VII. After the occupation of Angkor by the Chams (1177 - 1181), the new king decided to build an inexpugnable fortress at the core of his empire, so that enemies felt like they were being overwhelmed by the power of Jayavarman on arriving at the gates of the city.
The visit starts at Bayon Temple. At the exact center of Angkor Thom, this is an eccentric expression of the creative genius and ego of the most famous king of Cambodia. Its 54 towers are all embossed with the four faces of Avalokiteshvara (the Buddha of Compassion), and some show a vague resemblance with the king himself. These giant heads look down from every part of the temple and show power, control and little compassion, just the necessary mix to keep control over a vast empire.
The tour continues with the Terrace of the Leper King. This engraved platform was the royal crematory and the statue which was initially believed to be the leper king, is now believed to be god Yama, the god of death. Continue toward the Elephant Terrace, originally used as a stage for the king to preside parades, performances and traditional sports. At the southernmost end is Baphuon, once one of the most beautiful temples in Angkor, dating back to Uditayavarman I's kingdom in the 11th century. After a massive renovation made by the French, it is now possible to visit it.
The tour continues towards the Mother of all temples, the Angkor Wat, which is believed to be the largest religious building in the world. This temple is the perfect fusion of symbolism and symmetry and a source of pride and strenght for the Khmer people. Built in the 12th century by king Suryavarman II, this is the most famous temple in Angkor. We venture through Angkor Wat to admire its magnificence, where the mysteries of the basreliefs reveal stories of Hindu mythology and the luxury of the Khmer empire.
Overnight in Siem Reap.
After breakfast departure from Siem Reap to Tonle Sap, travelling along the eastern side of the lake. Arrival at Kampong Phluk, the "flooded forest", only accessible when the flood is high. We visit it by boat. Nearby is a fishermen village, where we can also learn the methods of traditional fishing carried on through generations. Transfer to the airport for the flight back. The room is available till midday. You'll then say goodbye to your Cambodian driver.
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