Hello Imprint fans and followers. For those of you who've followed my blogs this year you know I've felt a powerful draw to Vietnam. Over the summer I was in negotiations with my travel partners in Southeast Asia, creating an itinerary for an Imprint Tour. We've hammered out the outlines of a tour and I'm ready to share it with all of you. There is still work to be done. I would like to have an optional extension and I'm still working that out. I won't be able to announce a price for the tour until I get back to the office in mid-Oct (I'm currently underway in Europe). But I wanted you all to see what we've created - and I'd love your feedback. The projected time for the tour is early January 2015.
Day 1 Hanoi (Lan Vien hotel)
The tour starts around 1 pm. We'll meet our Vietnamese escort and have our get acquainted meeting before heading out to explore the city. We'll visit the major sights, including the Temple of Literature, the Hoa Lo Prison (the ‘Hanoi Hilton’), and explore the Old Quarter. We'll conclude our day with dinner together at one of Hanoi's fantastic restaurants.
Day 2 Hanoi – Tam Coc Excursion
We'll take a 2 hour drive from the hectic capital to the 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 300 hectares of land but today is mostly ruins. Our guide will take us through the Dinh & Le Temples, restored in the 17th century. Then we'll pick up bikes for a 1-hour ride through the stunning countryside before arriving at Tam Coc for lunch at a local restaurant. Then its on to Tam Coc (which translates as "Three Caves"). The area is often referred to as the Halong Bay of the land due to its spectacular towering karst scenery. Here we board boats for a 2-hour journey past local villages, rice paddies, and through caves in the Red River Delta.
Day 3 Halong Bay
You can leave luggage behind at our Hanoi hotel and pack a smaller overnight bag. Its a three-hour drive to Bai Chay (Halong City West) where we board our boat. We'll enjoy a seafood lunch and dinner as well as spending a night on board. Halong Bay is truly one of Vietnam's most impressive scenic sights. Picturesque sailing junks navigating the 3000+ limestone islands and the soaring karsts jutting dramatically from the bay are nothing short of spectacular. We'll visit a cave, enjoy a swim, and photograph an incredible sunset. There will also be an option for doing some kayaking.
Day 4 Halong – Hanoi – overnight train to Quang Binh
After breakfast, we continue cruising Halong Bay for the morning, then return to port and drive back to Hanoi. Arriving back in the capital, we check in our day use rooms until leaving for our overnight train in the evening. We have a free afternoon to wander and enjoy some of the city’s other attractions. This evening we board the Reunification Express for our overnight train journey down to Quang Binh. We travel in 'soft sleeper' class, compartments for four people.
Day 5 Quang Binh – Phong Nha – Hue (Mondial Hue Hotel)
After disembarking from the train (around 8 am), our escort will take us out for a local breakfast before taking a short spell to refresh in our day use rooms before boarding a boat and cruising along the Son river to Phong Nha Cave. We'll have ample time to explore by boat and on foot. We then take a bus directly to Hue.
Day 6 Hue
Today we take a boat along the Perfume River to the famous Thien Mu Pagoda, allowing us to see life on the river. We also visit the mausoleum of Tu Duc, one of the most extravagant tombs of the Nguyen emperors who ruled Vietnam from Hue between 1802 and 1945. This afternoon, we take a tour of the Citadel. Its 6 miles of walls enclose palaces and halls of the Mandarins, and the remains of the Forbidden Purple City.
Day 7 Hue – Danang – Hoi An (Hoian Hotel)
This morning, we embark on one of Vietnam's most spectacular road trips, crossing over the Hai Van Pass to Danang. Our ultimate destination is Hoi An, originally a Cham port town influenced down the centuries by traders from many cultures. Today it is a delightful town with an air of liveliness about it. The tranquility and charm of Hoi An, coupled with its Chinese, Japanese, Vietnamese and European architectural influences architecture, makes it one of the most delightful places to visit in Vietnam. This afternoon we'll take an introductory walking tour.
Day 8 Hoi An
This morning, we visit My Son, the Cham civilisation's spiritual home, where Cham kings were buried since the fourth century. The site boasts a number of interesting stone towers, tombs, and sanctuaries. The afternoon you'll have free time to wander the thriving riverside market, a good place to buy silk that can be made up into fine clothing by Hai An's famous tailors.
Day 9 Hoi An
We enjoy a free day to make the most of delightful Hoi An and its surrounding areas. We'll organize an optional day trip to Cham island with snorkeling and a seafood lunch.
Day 10 Hoi An- Ho Chi Minh City (Asian Ruby 1 Hotel)
This morning we depart Hoi An for 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 short city tour takes us to the Reunification Palace, the War Remnants Museum and Notre Dame Cathedral, and allows us to admire the beautiful French colonial architecture
Day 11 Ho Chi Minh City
This morning, we head out of town to visit the Cu Chi Tunnels. Cu Chi is actually the name of the district which covers an extensive underground network (approximately 200 kilometres) of tunnels dug initially by the Viet Minh and later expanded by the Viet Cong. The tunnels contained hospitals, plus accommodation and schools, and were used extensively for refuge and storage and also utilized as a military base for the Viet Cong. The 1968 Tet Offensive was launched from Cu Chi. A section of the tunnels has been widened to allow tourists to get a feel for what the life underground must have been like. The afternoon is left free for your own explorations of Saigon.
Day 12 Mekong Delta
We depart Saigon by road, our destination the agriculturally rich Mekong Delta and the town of Cai Be, where we begin a Mekong boat trip that takes us past a floating market. The scenery here is impressive, with many great 'photo ops' along the way. We stop to visit typical riverside villages, where we have a chance to meet the people, learn about the local commercial enterprises, and sample various tropical fruits. Then we'll continue on to our overnight homestay, located on an island in the Mekong River. You'll have the opportunity to take a 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.
Day 13 Ho Chi Minh City
Today we take an early morning walk through the island’s orchards and navigate our way through the narrow canals in a traditional wooden sampan. We then take another boat from our homestay island to rendezvous with our vehicle and return to Saigon. On the way we'll stop to visit the vibrant and colourful Cao Dai temple. Indigenous to Vietnam, Caodaism is a unique fusion of the best from Taoism, Buddhism, Hinduism, Christianity, Islam and Confucianism. This evening we'll close out our tour with a farewell dinner at one of Saogon's many memorable eating spots.
Day 14 Ho Chi Minh City
Tour finishes after breakfast.