Vietnam

Note:  While the Vietnam tour is not particularly physically demanding in the typical way, the country is hot and humid, which has an enervating effect.  Additionally, at certain times during the tour we’ll be climbing in and out of a variety of boats, sometimes without a pier or dock, climbing up to and through caves, navigating the Cu Chi tunnels, etc.  Those activities require a reasonable level of strength and dexterity - and an adventurous spirit.  

Day 1 Hanoi  2/9
Meeting, Temple of Literature; Hoa Lo Prison; Dinner
Our tour starts this afternoon around 2 pm. We’ll have our get-acquainted meeting, meet our Vietnamese guide, and head out to explore the city. Our walking tour takes in the major sights including the Temple of Literature and Hoa Lo Prison (nicknamed the ‘Hanoi Hilton’ by American POWs). We’ll end our day with a traditional Vietnamese dinner.
Lan Vien Hotel (2 nights)

Day 2 Hanoi 2/10
Bai Dinh; Tam Coc

Today we take a 2 hour drive from urban Hanoi to the rural province of Ninh Binh. Our first destination is Bai Dinh, the largest complex of Buddhist temples in Vietnam and a popular site for Buddhist pilgrimages. After having lunch at a local restaurant, we depart for a visit to Tam Coc (which translates as “Three Caves”). 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 storage cards for your camera! After our full day in the countryside, we return to Hanoi for a free evening.

Day 3 Halong Bay 2/11
Halong cruising; cave visit
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 Halong where we board our sailing junk for an exploration of the bay, enjoy a seafood lunch and dinner, visit a cave, and spend a night on board (Note: a single supplement does not provide for a single cabin on the junk). It is a wonderful experience to spend a night on the bay.

Day 4  Hanoi/Overnight Train 2/12
Halong cruising

After breakfast, we continue cruising around Halong Bay, 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 20:00 we board the Reunification Express for our overnight train journey down to Quang Binh. We travel in ‘soft sleeper’ class – a compartment for two people.  (Note - a single supplement does not provide for a private cabin on the overnight train.)

Day 5  Hue 2/13
Son River Cruise; Phong Nha Cave

After disembarking from the train we’ll take a short break to refresh in hotel day use rooms and have breakfast before visiting one of Vietnam’s true treasures - Phong Nha cave. Once again we travel by boat, cruising along the Son River to the cave. 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 see the remains of Cham Altars 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, a Unesco World Heritage site.  Located on the Perfume River, Hue is the former capital of the Nguyen dynasty.  We’ll have dinner together in a local restaurant this evening.
Moonlight Hotel (2 nights)

Day 6  Hue 2/14
Citadel; Thien Mu Pagoda; Perfume River Cruise; Royal Tomb

This morning we take a tour of the partially ruined Citadel, capital of Vietnam in the 19th century. Its six miles of walls contain the palaces and pavilions of the ruling Nguyen emperors and the remains of the Forbidden Purple City, 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.  Before leaving Hue we’ll visit the famous Thien Mu Pagoda, a center for anti-government protest in the early 1960s.  This afternoon another waterborne excursion on the Perfume River takes us to the surrounding countryside where we’ll have a local lunch and visit one of the extravagant royal tombs in the area.

Day 7  Hoi An 2/15
Walking Tour 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.
Belle Maison Hadana Resort (3 nights)

Day 8  Hoi An 2/16
My Son

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 many 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 2/17
Free Day

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. Imprint can arrange a Vietnamese cooking class or photography class for those interested.  Rent a bike for the day or just relax by the hotel pool.

Day 10  Ben Tre Homestay 2/18
Cao Dai Temple; Mekong

This morning we depart Hoi An for nearby Danang, where we board our flight to Ho Chi Minh City, formerly Saigon (flight included). Upon arrival we’ll travel directly to our homestay visit in the Mekong Delta.  Enroute we’ll stop to visit a vibrant and colorful Cao Dai temple. Indigenous to Vietnam, Caodaism is a unique fusion of Taoism, Buddhism, Hinduism, Christianity, Islam and Confucianism.  At Cai Be we begin a Mekong River boat trip, taking us to our island homestay.  We will have the opportunity to participate in the preparation of our traditional dinner followed by local entertainment.  (Note:  our homestay accommodations are clean and comfortable with private facilities, but plain and rustic. A single supplement does not provide for a private room at the homestay.)
Vinh Long Homestay (2 nights)

Day 11 Ben Tre Homestay 2/19
Mekong activities
After breakfast we will embark on our morning’s activities. We’ll explore the small waterways of the delta in sampans, visit a floating market, and stop to visit riverside businesses and observe the locals plying their trades. After sampling various tropical fruits, local candies, and other local specialties we’ll return to our homestay for lunch. This afternoon is free for relaxation.

Day 12  Saigon 2/20
Cu Chi Tunnels

On the way back to Saigon you’ll visit one of the most important sites in the area, the famous Cu Chi Tunnels. These complex tunnels were used by the Viet Cong in the long war against the Americans and were instrumental to the Vietnamese victory.  Cu Chi is actually the name of the district that covers an extensive underground network (approximately 125 miles) of tunnels. They contained storage, refuge, hospitals, accommodations, and even schools. A section of the tunnels has been widened to allow tourists a feeling for what underground life must have been like.
De Charm Hotel (2 nights)

Day 13  Saigon 2/21
City Tour; War Remnants Museum

This morning, take a tour of the city, passing the Reunification Palace, Notre Dame Cathedral and the Opera House. We'll visit the War Remnants Museum for a sobering yet informative lesson on the Vietnam War. Your afternoon is free to relax or explore.  We'll then gather for our final dinner together.

Day 14  Tour Over 2/22
The tour ends after breakfast. Imprint will assist with airport transfer arrangements.

[Itinerary details & hotels subject to change]

What’s Included:
9 nights hotel accommodation, 1 overnight cruise, 1 overnight train, 2 night homestay nights; day use rooms day 4 Hanoi and day 5 Quang Binh; All breakfasts, 5 lunches, 7 dinners; All tour transportation (bus, van, train, boatplane); All tips (guide, tour director, local guides, drivers, boat captains, group meals, hotel staff); Full-time services of Vietnamese guide and Imprint tour director, local guides; All entrances: Temple of Literature, Hoa Lo prison, Phong Nha Cave, Thien Mu pagoda; Hue tomb; Hue Citadel & Forbidden City, War Remnants Museum, Cu Chi tunnels, Cao Dai temple; All activities: Hanoi city tour,Tam Coc boat trip, cave excursion Halong Bay, Son River cruise, Perfume River cruise, Hoi An walking tour, HCMC city tour, Mekong boat trip with villages and market visits, and more

Important Exclusions
Tour participants are responsible for the cost of drinks, free-time sightseeing & meals, expenditures of a personal nature, and flight baggage overage fees.

Post-tour Cambodia Extension $800

Day 1 Siem Reap  2/22
Welcome Meeting
For those extending to Angkor, we'll take a midday flight to Siem Reap, Cambodia (included).  Upon arrival our ace guide Kheung will escort us to our hotel.  After check-in, we’ll gather for a short briefing. The day concludes with a classic Cambodian dinner at Sala Bai Restaurant. In keeping with our values of responsible tourism, we support Sala Bai where they not only provide excellent food in a charming setting, but their purpose is training and employing underprivileged Cambodian youth.
Hotel:  Angkor Holiday Hotel (3 nights)

Day 2 Siem Reap  2/23
Angkor Wat; Banteay Srie
Our destination this morning is Angkor Wat, the jewel in the great Angkor crown, the world’s largest religious building, and Southeast Asia’s premier sight. Our guide will interpret its long bas relief galleries, distinctive corncob prangs, and concentric walls and moats:  which together constitute a metaphor for the Buddhist cosmos. Lunch is Khmer style in a local restaurant in the forest.  In the afternoon we’ll head to Banteay Srie, a small but intricately carved temple complex considered to be the jewel of Khmer architecture. Additionally, the journey to and from Srie affords opportunities to see village life.

Day 3 Siem Reap  2/24
Ta Prohm; Angkor Thom
Today’s highlights include photogenic Ta Prohm and world-famous Angkor Thom. Ta Prohm (made famous in the movie Tomb Raider) was left in its natural state, overwhelmed by the jungle. The roots of giant trees weave in, on, and through the temple ruins and walls of the complex. We’ll take plenty of free time here for photographers to record these iconic Angkor images. After a mid-day break we’ll visit Angkor Thom, a royal city encompassing famous Bayon & Baphuan temples, the Elephants and Leper King Terraces, and the oft-photographed South Gate. The Bayon is a popular favorite with labyrinthine passages to explore and multiple towers – each with 4 enigmatic Khmer faces. The south gate may well be the most photographed destination at Angkor. Its massive “4-face” tower and “tug-of-war” warrior balustrades adorn many books and brochures. Tonight we’ll indulge in a traditional dinner while enjoying classical Khmer dance.

Day 4 Tour Over  2/25
Tour ends after breakfast.  Imprint will assist with airport transfer arrangements. For go-getters, your Angkor pass is still valid this morning if you’d like to photograph the sunrise at Angkor Wat.

[Extension hotel and itinerary details are subject to change.]

What’s Included:
3 nights hotel accommodation; All breakfasts, 1 lunch, 2 dinnersAll tour transportation (bus, minivanplane); All tips (guide, tour director, drivers, group meals, hotel staff); Full-time services of Cambodian guide and Imprint tour director; All entrances: Angkor Archaeological Zone 3-day pass; All activities: Khmer Dance performance

Important Exclusions
Tour participants are responsible for the cost of drinks, free-time sightseeing & meals, expenditures of a personal nature, and flight baggage overage fees.