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Package details include
Your journey begins in Ho Chi Minh City, formerly Saigon. After a free day to explore on your own, visit sites important to Vietnam's history such Reunification Hall, formerly known as the Presidential Palace. It was towards this modern building that Communist tanks rolled on the morning of April 30, 1975, as the city fell at the end of the Vietnam War. Stop by the General Post Office, a picturesque Colonial-era landmark, City Hall, and Notre Dame Cathedral. Tour the Cu Chi Tunnels – an incredible network of underground passages used during the Vietnam War complete with trapdoors, kitchens and living quarters. And stroll along Le Cong Kieu Street, famous for the many shops and galleries selling crafts and antiques.
You'll also have a chance to experience Vietnam's remarkable natural beauty. Discover quiet villages set along the fertile valleys and lush waterways of the Mekong Delta by sampan. Witness thousands of limestone islands rising from the emerald waters of majestic and inspiring Ha Long Bay, a UNESCO World Heritage site. You’ll see this breathtaking body of water in style aboard a 5-star Paradise Cruise vessel where you'll spend the night in a deluxe cabin. Enjoy lunch and dinner onboard as you navigate along tranquil coves, past limestone caves and dramatic rocks jutting from the water. Stroll along the beaches of Hoi An, a major international port during the 17th-19th centuries and now a popular seaside resort. And see fascinating scenes of local life as you cruise down the Perfume River in the educational and cultural town of Hue, another UNESCO World Heritage site.
There's also plenty of time to explore Vietnam’s culinary traditions and even learn to prepare traditional dishes yourself! In Ho Chi Minh City, dine at the Hoa Tuc Restaurant, famed for its contemporary approach to Vietnamese cuisine. Mingle with local farmers and sample fresh fruit in a village on the Mekong Delta. Use that experience later to help select fresh produce and spices at a market in Hoi An. The ingredients you select will be used later at a hands-on cooking class where you'll learn about some of the ingredients and techniques of traditional Vietnamese cooking. Dine at the esteemed Brother’s Café, located on Hoi An’s waterfront. And in Hanoi, accompany a local chef on a tour of the city's diverse culinary scene. Explore a local market and gain insight into the many exotic spices and ingredients then join him for an authentic Vietnamese lunch at one of his favorite restaurants.
• 9 nights in deluxe and first-class hotels: 4 nights in Ho Chi Minh City, 2 nights in Hoi An, 1 night in Hue and 2 nights in Hanoi
• 1 night in a deluxe cabin aboard a Paradise Cruise vessel on Ha Long Bay
• 22 meals - Daily breakfast, 6 lunches and 6 dinners
• On-tour transportation and 2 internal flights
• Services of a professional trip leader
• Comprehensive escorted sightseeing with all entry fees
• Hotel to hotel baggage handling
February 8, 2015: A Special Festival Departure
Join our special February 8, 2015 departure and experience Tet, the Vietnamese New Year when colorful decorations adorn nearly every street, home and building. As you explore the country at this festive time, you’ll encounter local residents as they celebrate in the streets en route to visit with family and friends.
Special dishes are a tradition of the New Year and you’ll have an opportunity to savor these delights including Banh Chung, sticky rice which has been carefully prepared with meat or vegetables and beautifully wrapped in a green banana leaf.
Day 1 - Welcome to Ho Chi Minh City (formerly Saigon)
AAA Complimentary Inclusion: Enjoy a complimentary extra night at the Park Hyatt Hotel in Ho Chi Minh City before your tour, including breakfast the following day.
Accommodation: Park Hyatt Hotel - 4 nights
Day 2 - Ho Chi Minh City
Enjoy a free day to relax or explore the city on your own.
Day 3 - Exploring Ho Chi Minh City
An enriching day begins this morning at the Cu Chi Tunnels, the incredible underground network used by guerilla fighters during the Vietnam War that once stretched for 210 miles. Marvel at secret trapdoors, underground kitchens, living quarters and even conference rooms. You’ll have ample opportunity to view the excavated areas from above. The more adventurous can even explore the deeper second and even third-level tunnels.
Back in the city, a sightseeing tour includes Saigon’s most important Colonial-era landmarks. See Reunification Hall, formerly known as the Presidential Palace. It was towards this modern building that Communist tanks rolled on the morning of April 30, 1975, as the city fell at the end of the Vietnam War. Stop by the General Post Office, a picturesque Colonial-era landmark, City Hall and Notre Dame Cathedral. Then stroll along Le Cong Kieu Street, famous for the many shops and galleries selling antiques – both old and new! Dine tonight at Hoa Tuc Restaurant, famed for its contemporary approach to Vietnamese cuisine.
Day 4 - The Mekong Delta
Engaging Experience: Drive deep into the Mekong Delta and explore these bustling waterways by sampan. Sample exotic fruits in the shade of a farmer’s garden before sitting down to a congenial lunch of local specialties. Return to Saigon, where your evening is at leisure.
Day 5 - Historic Hoi An
Fly to Danang and drive past the beautiful Marble Mountains and world-famous China Beach to Hoi An. Engaging Experience: Your guided walking tour in town includes a local school and ample opportunity to marvel at Hoi An’s historic merchant homes, ancient temples and bustling markets. This colorful seaport will bring you back to the 18th century when this was one of the busiest trading ports in Asia. Known as Faifo to early western traders, Hoi An was home to Japanese, Indian, Chinese and Portuguese merchants.
Today, Hoi An is known for its collection of original Chinese temples and impressive homes built by these wealthy merchants of earlier times. Wander through the old town center to admire these old merchants’ homes, the art galleries that now draw visitors from all over the world, and the famous Japanese Covered Bridge. This evening, delight in your deluxe beachfront guestroom.
Accommodation: Victoria Resort - 2 nights
Day 6 - Hoi An Cooking Class
Engaging Experience: Mingle with residents at the local market and learn how to select the best spices and freshest produce - ingredients you’ll use later at a hands-on cooking class. Learn about the preparation techniques for traditional dishes including fresh spring rolls, green papaya salad and fish in banana leaf. After enjoying the lunch you helped prepare, your afternoon is free. This evening, dine along the riverfront at the esteemed Brother’s Café, located on the waterfront.
Day 7 - Scenic Journey to Hue
Founded more than 300 years ago, Hue has long been an important cultural, religious, and educational center for Vietnam. Engaging Experience: Visit the ornate tomb of Emperor Khai Dinh and the Imperial Citadel, an impressive complex of buildings, lakes, and tranquil gardens, all laid out in a series of concentric circles. Encounter fascinating scenes of local life as you cruise down the Perfume River and visit the famous Dong Ba Market.
Accommodation: La Residence Hotel - 1 night
Day 8 - Fly to Hanoi
Upon arrival in Hanoi, a sightseeing tour includes the 11th-century Temple of Literature, Ngoc Son Temple and lovely Hoan Kiem Lake. Enjoy lunch and then explore the atmospheric lanes of the French Quarter, now home to many artists’ studios, aboard a traditional Cyclo. Experience an ancient art form at this evening’s Water Puppet performance.
Accommodation: Hotel Sofitel Metropol - 2 nights
Day 9 - The Flavors of Hanoi
Engaging Experience: After breakfast, a local chef will be waiting to give you a taste of the city’s diverse culinary scene. Explore a local market and meet the vendors as he offers up interesting facts and insight into the many exotic spices and ingredients for sale. Join him for coffee or tea at a charming sidewalk café and then sit down to an authentic Vietnamese lunch at one of his favorite restaurants.
Day 10 - Ha Long Bay Overnight Cruise
Engaging Experience: A morning drive brings you to magnificent Ha Long Bay to board the Paradise Cruise vessel for an unforgettable overnight cruise. Inspired by traditional Vietnamese junks, this modern 5-star ship features just 17 outside staterooms, a stylish restaurant and bar, and plenty of windows and open deck space to enjoy the scenery.
Ha Long Bay is filled with thousands of limestone islands, forested peaks, hidden coves, secret caves and emerald green waters that stretch forth as far as you can see. Cruise through the magnificent scenery, exploring along tranquil coves and past limestone caves. Enjoy lunch, dinner and a wonderful voyage deep into this captivating tableau of mountains, sea and sky.
Accommodation: Stateroom aboard Paradise Cruise vessel - 1 night
Day 11 - Awake on Ha Long Bay and return to Hanoi
Step off the ship after a leisurely breakfast and return to Hanoi where your tour ends at the airport for your onward journey.