Imprint Tours is proud to announce our 2015 Vibrant Vietnam tour. The 14-day tour begins Jan 19 and ends Feb 1, 2015. The cost is $2550 (single supplement $275) making it our best value ever! Come join us on this Eastern adventure. Vietnam offers the best of Southeast Asian culture: magnificent landscapes and scenery, friendly locals, great value, great food, and fascinating architecture, culture, and history. In addition, Vietnam boasts two elements shared by few other Eastern destinations.
First, our own history is intimately tied to theirs due to our involvement in the Vietnam War. Memories and reminders of the war, the seminal event in their modern history, are ever present. Though they suffered much, the people were never broken by the conflict and the country flourishes today. Perhaps surprisingly, Americans are particularly welcome visitors. We are treated as honored guests and the country’s youth aspire to emulate American culture. Second, Vietnam is newly opened to mainstream tourism making it a relatively unspoiled destination. We are hitting that perfect moment when the dynamism of a burgeoning economy and nation adds an element of excitement to the traveler experience but quiet and tranquil corners still remain. We will pursue each of those elements to the fullest extent. It’s an ideal time to visit.
Beyond the war the historical influences on Vietnam have created a cultural mosaic that begs exploration. Hindu/Indian influences can be felt in the south, the Chinese shadow falls heavily in the north, and the echo of French colonialism can be perceived throughout. For natural beauty, Halong Bay and Tam Coc compete with pristine beaches, mystical caves, and the serenity of the mighty Mekong Delta for our attentions. The ruins of ancient dynasties evoke ghosts of the past and pagoda-like temples dot the countryside. Finally, completing the picture are the fascinating and energetic cities of Hanoi and Saigon. In fact, Hanoi was recently voted #8 on Trip Advisor’s Top 10 “New Travel Destinations” list.
We’ll go during the shoulder season of late January to avoid the crowds, stretch our dollars, avoid heavy rains, and enjoy milder temperatures. As you expect from Imprint we’ll combine seeing the top sights with intimate cultural connection experiences. As always, our hand-picked Vietnamese escort will introduce us to her home, smooth the way for us, navigate the language barrier, and insure a memorable experience.
For those interested we have added an optional extension to Angkor Wat. The extension adds 4 days to the end of the tour, Feb 1 to 4. The cost is $750 (single supplement $75). We will fly into Siem Reap and together explore the mother of all Southeast Asian sights: Angkor Wat. Highlights include mighty Angkor Wat itself, the royal city of Angkor Thom, Ta Prohm, Banteay Srie, a traditional Khmer dance drama, and much more.
Below is a detailed itinerary, complete with hotel and restaurant links. To view the Vietnam Photo Gallery on our website, follow this link: Vietnam Photo Gallery
We are accepting deposits now so reserve your place. If you have any questions or concerns, do not hesitate to contact us at: firstname.lastname@example.org. We hope to see you in 2015! Keep traveling and “Travel with Intent”.
Day 1 Hanoi
Our tour starts this afternoon around 2 pm. We’ll have our get-acquainted meeting, meet our Vietnamese escort, and head out to explore the city. Our guided tour takes in the major sights including the Temple of Literature and Hoa Lo Prison (nicknamed the ‘Hanoi Hilton’ by American POWs). We’ll explore the Old Quarter whose streets are named for the goods once offered here, including Silk Street, Rice Street and Jewelers Street. We’ll end our day with a traditional Vietnamese dinner at the elegant Madame Hien restaurant. http://verticale-hanoi.com/madame-hien
Accommodation: Lan Vien hotel / Deluxe rooms Address: 32 Hang Bai/37A Ly Thuong Kiet Street, Hoan Kiem District, Hanoi, Ph: (84-4)3722 8888 http://lanvienhotel.com.vn/
Day 2 Hanoi Hanoi – Tam Coc – Hanoi
Today we take a 2 hour drive from urban Hanoi to the rural province of Ninh Binh. Our first destination is Hoa Lu, the capital of Vietnam during the 10th century Dinh and Le Dynasties. The ancient citadel once covered 750 acres of land. However, the passage of time has left only fragments of this once glorious capital city. Upon arrival our escort will take us through the ruins to the Dinh & Le Temples, dedicated to the Dinh and Le emperors and restored in the 17th century. Next up, an easy one-hour bike ride through the breathtaking countryside. This area is often referred to as the “HalongBay of the Land” due to its spectacular scenery. Limestone karsts topped by verdant jungle vegetation rise dramatically to tower over rice paddies and green valleys. After working up an appetite we’ll arrive at Tam Coc for lunch together at a local restaurant. Once refreshed we’ll explore Tam Coc, which translates as “ThreeCaves”. This leg of our journey is by small boat. Sit back and enjoy the two-hour journey through caves, past villages, and beside the lush green rice paddies of the Red River Delta, always with the stunning backdrop of karst crags and towers. Bring extra flash cards for your camera! After our full day in the countryside, we return to Hanoi for a free evening. For those interested, we can arrange to see a performance of the famous water puppet theater, Vietnam’s signature performing art.
Day 3 Hanoi – Halong Bay
You can leave your luggage behind at our Hanoi hotel and pack an overnight bag. We are off to Halong Bay, Vietnam’s most impressive scenic wonder. Views of sailing junks navigating the 3000+ karst islands and rocky outcrops jutting out of the bay are nothing short of spectacular. We travel to Bai Chay (Halong City West) where we board our sailing junk for an exploration of the bay, enjoy a seafood lunch and dinner and spend a night on board (private twin rooms). We visit a sea cave in the area, kayaks are available, and there is always the option to enjoy a swim. It is a wonderful experience to spend a night on the bay. The views at sunset and sunrise are incredible!
Day 4 Halong – Hanoi – overnight train
After breakfast, we continue cruising around HalongBay, before returning to port and driving back to Hanoi. Arriving back in the capital, we check into our hotel day use rooms until leaving for an overnight train around 23:00. You’ll have free time to explore and enjoy more of the city’s attractions. Perhaps afternoon tea at the Metropole Hotel or paying homage to Vietnam’s most famous revolutionary, Ho Chi Minh. Later we board the Reunification Express for our overnight train journey down to Quang Binh. We travel in ‘soft sleeper’ class which is a compartment for four people. This journey allows us to maximize our sightseeing time.
Day 5 Quang Binh – Phong Nha – Hue
After disembarking from the train (around 8 am) our escort will take us out for a local breakfast. Then we’ll take a short break to refresh in hotel day use rooms before visiting the Phong Nha cave. Once again we travel by boat, cruising along the SonRiver to the cave, another of Vietnam’s great natural treasures. We’ll journey through the first half mile of the cavern in our boat, then continue on foot into the heart of the cave. Inside we’ll explore the remains of Cham Altars and Inscriptions in addition to the fantastic rock formations. After our return to the sunlit world we have an afternoon’s drive to our final destination, Hue. We’ll have dinner together in a local restaurant this evening.
Accommodation: Mondial Hue hotel / Standard rooms Address: 17 Nguyen Hue St., Hue Ph: (84-54) 3945599 http://www.mondialhotel.com.vn/
Day 6 24-Jan-2015 Hue
Another waterborne excursion along the PerfumeRiver takes us to the famous Thien Mu Pagoda, a center for anti-government protest in the early 1960s. We also visit the extravagant mausoleum of Tu Duc, one of the great Nguyen emperors who ruled Vietnam from Hue between 1802 and 1945. This afternoon, we take a tour of the partially ruined Citadel. It’s six miles of walls contain the palaces and pavilions of the Mandarins and the remains of the ForbiddenPurpleCity, where only the emperor or his eunuchs and concubines were allowed entrance. Many buildings remain blackened and crumbling, creating an evocative ambiance, ideal for photographing or imagining the ghosts of the mandarins.
Day 7 Hue – Hoi An
One of Vietnam’s most scenic road trips over Hai Van Pass begins our day. Our destination, Hoi An, was originally a Cham port town so has been influenced down the centuries by traders from many cultures. The town is a living museum, with Chinese, Japanese, Vietnamese, and European architectural influences. There are pagodas, assembly halls, attractive wooden merchant’s houses, and colorful tiled houses scattered along the small streets. Once a bustling port, today Hoi An’s ambiance, tranquility, and charm make it one of the most delightful places to visit in Vietnam. This afternoon will include a guided walking tour of the city center and tonight we’ll dine together.
Accommodation: Hoian hotel / Superior rooms Address: 10 Tran Hung Dao Str., Hoi An Ph: (84 510) 386 1445 http://www.hoianhotel.com.vn/
Day 8 Hoi An
This morning, we visit My Son, the Cham civilization’s spiritual home, where Cham kings were buried as early as the fourth century. There are numerous interesting carved stone towers, sanctuaries, and tombs to explore and photograph at this intriguing archaeological site. This afternoon is free to explore, shop, or relax in Hoi An.
Day 9 Hoi An
Today we continue our vacation from our vacation. Hoi An is a marvelous place to wander and enjoy the thriving riverside market, a good place to buy silk. Local tailors can create fine garments for a bargain price, all within a day. For surf and sand lovers we will arrange an optional boat trip to beautiful palm-ringed ChamIsland. The island’s colorful corals and clear waters make it a prime snorkeling destination and equipment will be provided.
Day 10 Hoi An – Ho Chi Minh City
This morning we depart Hoi An for nearby Danang, where we board our flight to Saigon (Ho Chi Minh City). Saigon is the largest city in Vietnam and the nation’s economic capital. Upon arrival a guided city tour takes us into the historic heart of the city where we’ll admire the many beautiful French colonial buildings such as the post office and the Hotel de Ville (city hall). Other highlights include visits to the ReunificationPalace, the WarRemnantsMuseum, and Notre Dame Cathedral. We’ll have dinner together tonight.
Accommodation: Asian Ruby 1 hotel / Deluxe rooms Address: 26 Thi Sach st, Ben Nghe ward, Dist., HCMC Ph: (84-8) 3 827 7948 – 7949 http://asianrubyhotel.com
Day 11 Ho Chi Minh City
The infamous Cu Chi Tunnels are this morning’s goal. Cu Chi is actually the name of the district which includes the extensive underground network (approximately 125 miles) of tunnels dug during the Vietnam War by the Viet Minh and later expanded by the Viet Cong. The tunnels contained hospitals, accommodations, and schools, and were used extensively for refuge and storage. They were also utilized as a military base by the Viet Cong. The 1968 Tet Offensive was launched from Cu Chi with surprising success. A section of the tunnels has been widened and expanded to allow visitors a sense what life underground must have been like. After returning to Saigon you’ll have the afternoon and evening free to explore on your own.
Day 12 Mekong Delta
Today is our cultural connection day. We depart Saigon and head for the agriculturally rich Mekong Delta and the town of Cai Be, where we begin a MekongRiver boat trip that takes us past a floating market, lush scenery, and many cultural photo ops. We’ll stop to visit riverside villages with a chance to meet the people, sample various tropical fruit, and learn about local commercial enterprises. Our goal is the Vinh Long homestay, located on an island. After settling in we have the opportunity to take an easy guided bike ride around the island or relax in a hammock and soak up the local way of life before enjoying dinner cooked by a local family.
Accommodation: Vinh Long Homestay
Day 13 Ho Chi Minh City
Before departing our island homestay we’ll take a guided morning walk through the island’s orchards and a tour of its narrow canals in traditional wooden sampans. Then its back down the Mekong to Cai Be and Saigon. On the way we’ll stop to visit the vibrant and colorful Cao Dai temple. Indigenous to Vietnam, Caodaism is a unique fusion of Taoism, Buddhism, Hinduism, Christianity, Confucianism, and Islam. This evening we’ll have our last dinner together at KOTO https://www.koto.com.au. In keeping with Imprint’s values of responsible travel we support KOTO. This acclaimed restaurant trains and employs underprivileged or homeless youths, teaching them job skills, life skills, and English, thereby helping them become productive citizens. And the food is excellent, making KOTO one of the top-ranked restaurants in Saigon.
Accommodation: Asian Ruby 1 hotel / Deluxe rooms
Day 14 Ho Chi Minh City – Departure
The tour ends after breakfast. We’ll help arrange airport transfers for those heading home today. For those continuing on to Cambodia (Angkor Wat optional extension), we’ll have a leisurely morning and a midday flight to Siem Reap.
Tour Includes 10 nights hotel accommodation, 1 overnight on-boat cruise, 1 overnight train, 1 night homestay; Day use rooms for late check out on day 4 in Hanoi (14.00-23.00) and early check in on day 5 in Quang Binh (8.00-12.00) Tours and transfers by private air-conditioned bus All activities and entrances: Hanoi city tour, Temple of Literature, Hoa Lo prison; Dinh & Le Temples; Tam Coc bike ride & boat trip; cave excursion Halong Bay; Son River cruise; Phong Nha Cave; Perfume River cruise; Thien Mu pagoda; Tu Duc tomb; Hue Citadel & Purple Forbidden City; Hoi An walking tour; HCMC city tour, Reunification Palace, War Remnants Musuem, Notre Dame; Cu Chi tunnel excursion; Mekong boat trip (2) with villages and floating market visits; Cao Dai temple; and more Services of English speaking escort and Imprint tour director Meals: 13 breakfasts, 2 lunches, 7 dinners Tips for escort, tour director, local guides, drivers, boat captains, & group meals All Transportation: Bus, Train, Boat, Plane (Denang – HCMC)
Exclusions Int’l arrival & departure flights; airport tax; Vietnam entry visa Free time meals and sightseeing Drinks at group meals Expenditures of personal nature
Angkor Wat Extension – Feb 1 – 4
Day 1 Siem Reap
Sousadei! Welcome to Cambodia. Upon arrival, our Cambodian escort will pick us up from SiemReapInternationalAirport and transfer us to our hotel. We’ll check-in and refresh. In the late afternoon we’ll set out for sunset at the temples of Angkor. Sunset at mighty Angkor Wat is a travel experience not to be missed.
Accommodation: Angkor Holiday Hotel / Superior Rooms National Road No 6, corner of Sivatha street, Siem Reap, Cambodia Tel 063 966 777 www.angkorholidayhotel.com
Day 2 Angkor Wat & Angkor Thom
Magnificent, storied Angkor Wat itself anchors our sightseeing today. Easily the most famous and best-preserved of the temples within the Angkor complex this 12th century royal temple is the jewel of the greater Angkor crown. Soaring corncob spires, miles of bas relief narrative sculpture, concentric carved limestone walls, and huge moats combine to make Angkor Wat the world’s biggest religious building and a physical representation of the Hindu/Buddhist cosmos. After a guided tour and plenty of free time for personal exploration and photography we’ll return to town for lunch together at Sala Bai restaurant. Not only does Sala Bai provide excellent food in a charming setting, but like KOTO in Saigon it is an institution whose purpose is training underprivileged Cambodian youth and we are pleased to support their efforts with our patronage. http://www.salabai.com/html/
After some down time our destination will be Angkor Thom. This royal city complex boasts many of Angkor’s most iconic and photogenic structures and is a favorite among travelers. Highlights include the distinctive Bayon, with its 54 towers decorated with 200 enigmatic smiling faces, the pyramidal Bapuon temple, and the famous Terrace of the Elephants and Terrace of the Leper King. We finish the afternoon with a stop at the photogenic South Gate where gods and demons line the road, struggling in a cosmic tug-of-war. The Gate itself is crowned with four monumental Khmer faces, enigmatically facing the four cardinal directions.
Tonight we’ll indulge in a classic Cambodian dinner while enjoying traditional Khmer music and dance.
Day 3 Ta Prohm & Banteay Srei
Our first destination today is fascinating Ta Prohm. Feel like one of the early explorers as you visit this temple. It was left as found by 19th century archaeologists: overgrown by the jungle. You’ll have plenty of time to explore and photograph on your own, capturing the enormous, all-invasive roots of the Strangler Fig and Silk Cotton trees that entwine and dominate the crumbling buildings and walls of the complex.
After a mid-day break we take a trip through the countryside and small villages to Banteay Srei, a charming red sandstone Hindu temple dedicated to Shiva. Considered by many to be the jewel of Angkorian architecture, this temple has the finest and best preserved relief carvings in the site.
Tonight we’ll enjoy our farewell dinner at Marum Restaurant. Marum, like Sala Bai & KOTO, serves creative and delicious cuisine while doubling as a training school and employer for Siem Reap streetchildren. http://www.tree-alliance.org/our-restaurants/marum.asp?mm=or&sm=ma
Day 4 Tour Over
The tour finishes today after breakfast. We’ll assist with transport to the airport or with plans for continued exploration of Angkor (you will still have one day left on your Angkor entrance pass). Consider a visit to Kbal Spean’s waterfall and riverbank carvings, overgrown and untouristed Beng Mealea, or a floating village on Tonle Sap lake.
Angkor Extension Includes Arrival airport transfer Private AC transport for all excursions Local English speaking guide & Imprint tour director All accommodation with daily breakfast 1 lunch; 2 dinners; Khmer music/dance performance Angkor 3-day pass Water on tours and excursions Tips for guides, tour director, drivers, and group meals
Exclusions Free time meals and sightseeing Drinks at group meals Arrival visa ($21)