Day 1 Hanoi
Xin chao! Welcome to Vietnam.
Your adventure begins with a welcome meeting at 5pm on Day 1.
Please look for a note in the hotel lobby or ask the hotel reception where it will take place. If you can't arrange a flight that will arrive in time, you may wish to arrive a day early so you're able to attend. We'll be happy to book additional accommodation for you (subject to availability). If you're going to be late, please inform the hotel reception. We'll be collecting your insurance details and next of kin information at this meeting, so please ensure you have all these details to provide to your leader.
An airport arrival transfer is included. This transfer is only valid if arriving on day 1 or if you have booked pre-trip accommodation through Intrepid. Please provide your flight details at the time of booking, or at a minimum 15 days prior to travel (note - we may not be able confirm request made within 15 days of travel). Once you have provided your details a transfer representative will be booked to meet you at the airport and transfer you to your hotel.
If you arrive early, why not get your first taste of Vietnam exploring the lovely, laidback capital. You can stroll the tree-lined boulevards to get a sense of the old days, wander the Old Quarter to uncover ancient temples and a rich, religious culture or head to the Temple of Literature, an oasis of calm right at the heart of Hanoi.
Day 2 Hanoi
The capital of Vietnam is a charming city with a population of over six million. Hanoi is famous for its beautiful lakes, shaded boulevards, verdant public parks and its thriving Old Quarter, which is an architectural museum piece with blocks of ochre buildings retaining the air of a 1930s provincial French town. As Vietnam develops to compete with other South-East Asian countries, the beautiful Hoan Kiem Lake reflects the contrasts of modern office buildings, old Buddhist temples and the tangle of ancient streets in its still surface.
Today we enjoy a full day Hanoi city tour including lunch with our old friends at KOTO - who provide opportunities for Hanoi's disadvantaged youth with life skills and employment opportunities.
Visit the Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum complex, which includes the One Pillar Pagoda and the Ho Chi Minh Museum.
In the evening we will head to a water puppet show, a form of traditional Vietnamese entertainment that started in rice fields centuries ago.
Day 3 Halong Bay
Travel by private minibus to the spectacular World Heritage site of Halong Bay (approx 4 hrs).
Halong Bay is a breathtaking secluded harbour with 2,000 limestone islands rising from the emerald waters of Bac Bo Gulf. One of Vietnam's most scenic regions, this area of about 1,500 sq km is dotted with innumerable beaches and grottos, created over thousands of years by waves and wind.
Board our private boat and cruise among the dramatic limestone peaks. There's an opportunity to swim in the famed South China Sea, as well as to explore caves filled with stunning stalactites and stalagmites. Spend a peaceful night on board, beneath a night sky alive with stars. Our sailing junk has twin-share cabins that have air-conditioning and private facilities. There's also a dining room and bar where we enjoy a sumptuous lunch and dinner. BOAT SHORTAGE:
Due to recent unforeseen late changes by local authorities in Halong Bay a large proportion of boats are now no longer permitted to stay overnight, thus resulting in a shortage of boats. To ensure we can accommodate all Intrepid travellers overnight on a boat we are occasionally using a larger boat (approx. 12 cabins) and splitting our groups across different boats. An Intrepid group leader will be present on each boat, and the route taken and inclusions on board will remain the same.
Day 4 Hanoi
Take a bus back to Hanoi (approx 3.5 hrs).
With a vibrant Old Quarter to explore, delicious food to discover and a city where ancient meets modern with ease, no wonder Hanoi is a favourite with travellers.
Board an overnight train to Da Nang. Although conditions are basic, overnight trains are a true Intrepid experience and the best way to travel long distances with the locals. Sleeper trains typically have four berth compartments (occasionally six berth depending on seasonal variations), which have bench seats that convert into sleeping bunks. A sheet, pillow and blanket are provided, although some travellers prefer to bring their own sleeping sheet. On occasion, passengers of different genders will be required to share a compartment and there will be occasions where you'll be sharing with local travellers or travellers who are not part of your group. Most trains have a dining carriage serving simple food, but some travellers take the opportunity to stock up on fresh bread, cheese and fruit prior to departure.
Day 5 Hoi An
Arrive in Danang and travel by minibus to Hoi An (approx 1 hr).
Recently declared a World Heritage site, Hoi An is being beautifully restored and preserved. Known as Faifo to early western traders, it was one of South-East Asia's major international ports during the 17th, 18th and 19th centuries. Today, parts of Hoi An look exactly as they did more than a century ago and it retains the feel of centuries past, making it the sort of place that grows on you the more you explore it. It's also a shopping mecca – with much to browse and buy. Choose from original paintings, handcrafted woodwork, ceramics, embroidery, lanterns and more. Hoi An has also become famous for its tailoring, with a great variety of fabrics and tailors to choose from.
On arrival, your tour leader will take you on an orientation walk around the Ancient Town, so you can get your bearings.
Make sure to experience one of the true highlights of Vietnam - the food. Speak to your leader about arranging a cooking lesson and learn about the many layers of fresh herbs and flavours that can be found in this fresh cuisine.
Day 6 Hoi An
After breakfast we head out to spend the morning at Cua Dai beach. This beach is known for its stunning palm-fringed white sand and views of the Cham islands. Transfer back to town for lunch, before spending the afternoon learning how to prepare White Rose Cake. This hands on experience is one the whole family will enjoy!
Day 7 Hoi An
Today we have left free so you can soak up the atmosphere of Hoi An before we leave it behind.
You have time here to explore the beautifully restored and preserved Chinese shop houses, enjoy the vibrant and busy market, visit Cua Dai Beach, cycle to the rice fields and browse the array of art galleries.
The backstreet and waterways in and around Hoi An are fascinating places to explore - emerald rice paddies, friendly locals and beautiful landscapes abound.
Day 8 Ho Chi Minh City
Take a short flight to the economic hub of Ho Chi Minh City (approx 1 hr).
A tasty local-style lunch awaits at the Ben Thanh Market then take time to explore the winding streets.
Formerly known as Saigon, Ho Chi Minh City is characterised by a vast array of sights and sounds, and is a fascinating blend of old and new, East and West. The huge number of people rushing about their daily lives in Vietnam's largest city gives it a dynamic atmosphere and the French influence is evident in the excellent baguettes and coffee on offer. Much of city life takes place on the busy streets lined with shops, stalls and vendors, who have their wares spread out on the footpath and sell everything from soup to sophisticated electronics.
Quite a contrast to its more sedate northern counterpart, the city's food is spicier, sweeter and more varied, with an abundance of great restaurants to choose from for our evening meals or take to the streets to tackle the culinary delights of the street food stalls.
Day 9 Ho Chi Minh City
Board the boat to Ben Tre to see coconut candy factory and sample the local candies for which this region is famous. Take the opportunity to take a tuk-tuk around this remote village with a stop to sample tropical fruits, and visit to a honey farm, to learn more about local rural life. Then visit a nearby restaurant in the heart of the delta, where you can sample some of the regional specialities such as the famous elephant-ear fish. After lunch, board sampans (small rowing boats) and paddle past the many water coconut trees that populate the Mekong Delta. Boarding our main private boat, cruise through more major waterways, arriving in My Tho town. Here our bus awaits to take us back to Ho Chi Minh City.
Day 10 Phnom Penh
Sua s'dei! Welcome to Cambodia. Today, you will take a flight to Phnom Penh. The sensational ruins of Angkor may be the main attraction, but Cambodia’s exquisite temples, secluded beaches, charming villages and magical markets deserve lots of attention too. With genuine locals always ready to share a sincere smile, Cambodia will steal your heart and enrich your spirit.
Arrive in the heat, hustle and bustle of Phnom Penh. Once considered the Paris of the East it is an exciting and absorbing city where scooters pack the streets and temples stand defiantly alongside modern developments. Decimated by years of civil war the city has stepped out of the shadows and the charm of yesteryear is re-emerging. A Mekong River boat cruise gives us a different view of Phnom Penh - it's a chance to check out the colourful river traffic as well as the vibrant life along the banks. If you're in the mood for shopping, stop in at the art deco-designed Psar Thmei (Central Market) which is a great place for browsing, or travel out to Psar Tuol Tom Pong (the Russian Market) for the best range of local souvenirs. A welcome group meeting will be held today with your leader for the Cambodia section of the trip with an optional group dinner after the meeting. Accommodation in Phnom Penh at a well-located family style hotel.
Day 11 Phnom Penh
This morning we explore the historic buildings in the Riverfront area by Cylco, a type of bicycle rickshaw. In the afternoon we journey by Remork ( local tuk tuk) and local boat to a Mekong Island to experience the lifestyle of the people who make their living from silk weaving, agriculture and aquaculture. We finish the day by taking a boat cruise to enjoy the sunset at the junction of the Tonle Bassac, Tonle Sap and the mighty Mekong Rivers.
Day 12 Siem Reap
Today after breakfast we check out of our hotel and a short flight takes us to Siem Reap (approx 1 hour). Siem Reap is the gateway to the UNESCO World Heritage Angkor Archaeological Park which is roughly 7 kilometres away. However, the town itself is worth exploring with day and night markets, Khmer massage and spa treatments, a variety of great cafes and restaurants, and even fish massage! The small but expanding town of Siem Reap is the gateway to Angkor. This is the most popular destination for travellers in all of Cambodia, perhaps even in South East Asia. The markets are a great place to shop or to try some cheap, delicious street food.
A visit to the old market is a must, even if you're not looking for souvenirs; wandering through the stalls and surrounding shops the silks, cottons, sarongs, silver and statues are a riot of colour and a feast for the eyes. There's also a long tradition of shadow puppetry in the region, and if you're lucky you might catch a show at one of the local restaurants in the evening.
Day 13 Siem Reap
After breakfast we are picked up by our local guide and taken to explore the remarkable temples of Angkor. Built between the 9 – 12th century the temples were meant to represent the cosmic world and as such are perfectly aligned in balance and symmetry. You might like to stop to see monkeys that gather on the temple ruins along the way. Today’s visit includes Angkor Wat - the largest religious site in the world, Ta Prohm – the jungle temple made famous when Tomb Raider was filmed there, and Bayon – with its 54 towers decorated with more than 200 enigmatic smiling faces.
Angkor Wat really is a spectacular as all the guidebooks and newspaper articles have led you to believe, and nothing can quite prepare you for your awe-inspiring first glimpse of the temple's five majestic towers. Angkor literally means "city" or "capital" and that's exactly what the huge temple complex once was - the ancient capital of the Khmer empire. Angkor Wat itself is usually recognised as the most impressive temple within the complex, both in terms of its grandeur and its sheer magnitude. As you approach, the intricacy of the layout becomes apparent, and close up, every nook and cranny reveals itself to be filled with fine detail; around every corner a new feature surpasses the last. Throughout the day the colours of the stone seem to change, the spires golden in the dying light at dusk.
Day 14 Siem Reap
This morning we head into the countryside to visit Angkor Centre for Conservation of Biodiversity which is housed at the base of Kbal Spien Moutain. ACCB has a collection of animals that have been saved from trafficking. Creatures include gibbons, monkeys, anteaters, storks, snakes, giant ibis and turtles. Pass through rural villages on the way where you can enjoy sampling sugar palm candy as it is made. On the way back to town we visit the exquisite Banteay Srey (“Citadel of the women”). The small temple displays some of the finest examples of classical Khmer art carved into the pinkish coloured sandstone. You may also like to stop at the Landmine Museum which was set up in 1997 by former-child soldier Aki Ra. The Museum aims to tell the story of landmines in Cambodia and to inspire people to make a difference. After lunch at Bong Thom homestay we visit Banteay Srei Butterfly Centre. The centre features a live display of the stunning variety of Cambodian butterflies. Rural families in the area are involved in the sustainable farming of the butterflies. They have been trained to understand the value of the forests and the importance of conservation. Tonight after dinner we visit Phare the Cambodian Circus. Coming from vulnerable households the performers have gained international recognition through their art practice. Like a Cambodian Cirque Du Soleil, modern Khmer tales mix theatre, music, dance, acrobatics, juggling, aerial acts, and contortion.
Day 15 Siem Reap
Today is departure day and no activities have been planned. If you are not templed out, your three day temple pass allows you to return to explore some more of Angkor Archaeological Park on your own. Your leader can help you arrange a remork or car to take you out. If you have extra time you might like to schedule a tasty Khmer Cooking Class, a trip to the Tonle Sap Lake – a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve, indulge yourself with high tea at Raffles Hotel, or simply relax by the hotel pool.
Tonle Sap is a significant lake and river system that feeds into the Mekong in Cambodia's dry season and forms a large lake during its wet.