Day 1: Arrival - Hanoi
Upon arrival at Noi Bai Airport, Viet Bamboo Travel's guide and driver will pick you up and transfer to hotel for check in. Overnight in Hanoi.
Day 2: Hanoi city tour (B, L)
You are met at 08:30 am in the hotel lobby. There is a morning and afternoon schedule, as well as an organized lunch. Morning:
Ho Chi Minh Complex including the Mausoleum, his former stilt-house residence, the Presidential Palace and the Ho Chi Minh Museum
The Temple of Literature - Vietnam’s first university dating back to 1070
A local Vietnamese lunch
Museum of Ethnology, widely acknowledged as the best in the country, containing an extensive display of life-size structures dedicated to Vietnam’s 54 ethnic minority peoples
Ngoc Son Temple and Hoan Kiem Lake - the Ngoc Son Temple is set on a tiny island on Hoan Kiem Lake, its history dating back to the 13th century
A one-hour cyclo tour through the narrow, chaotic streets of the Old Quarter - a must for any visitor to Hanoi!
A traditional performance of the famous Vietnamese water puppetsBack to hotel.
Please note: the Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum is closed all day on Monday and Fridays, as well as from 1st October to 30th November (approx.) for annual conservation. Overnight in Hanoi.
Day 3: Hanoi - Mai Chau (B, L, D)
Departing at 8:30 am from Hanoi for three and half hour journey through Hoa Binh Town, then gradually climb the begining of the Truong Son Mountain Range to Man Duc Town, a town with spectacular karst scenery. Upon arrival in Lac Village, Mai Chau, we will be greeted by friendly White Thai family. You will have a chance to communicate with Thai monority poeple and enjoy a simple lunch with them - The Thai has their own language, dress, customs, usages and singular blend of belief, worship and myth. After lunch, we will do a two and half hour trek to three White Thai villages of La Poon, La Thia and Poom Coong. In the afternoon, we get back to Lac Village for refreshment. Overnight at Thai home.
Day 4: Mai Chau - Hanoi (B, L)
After breakfast, we start a 2 hour trekking to Van Village, one of the most beautiful villages in Mai Chau area. There you can see spectacular scenery of mountain, forest, waterfall and rice paddies combined. If time allowed, we will visit a local market before heading back to Hanoi. We will have a late lunch on the way. Arrive in Hanoi at around 4pm. Overnight in Hanoi.
Day 5: Hanoi - Halong Bay (B, L, D)
08:00 - 08:30 Pick up at hotel for three and a half hours road trip with short refreshment on half way to Halong Bay.
12:00 Arrive at Bai Chay Wharf
12:15 Transfer by tender to the Marguerite Junk boat - enjoy Welcome Drink. Receive Junk Facilities and Cruise Instruction as well as Cruise Briefing before check in to cabins and begin cruise Off the Beaten Track.
13:00 Lunch - deluxe Vietnamese Set Menu.
15:00 Arrive at the Surprise Cave area. Transfer by tender to the Surprise Cave.
Walk up the 100 steps to the entrance of the cave and tour on foot for approximately 45 minutes.
16:00 Return to the boat. Enjoy kayaking program to the nearby Cave, lagoon and surrounding waters as well as exploring the daily life of the local people in floating village
17:00 Enjoy swimming or relaxing on board.
18:30 Take part in our cooking class with crispy spring rolls
19:30 Dinner - deluxe Vietnamese Set Menu Dinner.
20:30 Evening activities include: film entertainment in the dining room, board games and playing cards are available, squid fishing from the boat with our crew.
23:00 End of program for Day One. Overnight on junk.
Day 6: Halong Bay - Hanoi - Hue (B, L) - by flight
07:00 Coffee, tea and light breakfast pastries served in the dining room.
08:00 Enjoy riding on the rowing boat to the tunnel cave
09:00 Check-out of cabins. Enjoy relaxing, sunbathing on sundeck while our boat cruise back on different route.
10:45 Enjoy lunch Set Menu served in the dining room while enjoy the bay scenery as we approach the pier (passing Fight Cocks, Incense Burner, Stone Dog).
12:00 Transfer by tender to the pier, relax inside the pier building while waiting for return transportation.
12:20 Transfer back to Hanoi. You will arrive in Hanoi approximately at 16:30.
18:00Transfer to the airport for the flight (VN1547 – 20:25 – 21:35) to Hue. Overnight in Hue.
Day 7: Hue city tour (B, L)
Hue served as Vietnam's capital under the emperors of the Nguyen Dynasty from 1802 to 1945 and the city’s regal past can still be seen inside the walls of the Citadel and the Imperial City. Both were heavily damaged during the Tet Offensive of 1968 when the Hue served as Vietnam's capital under the emperors of the Nguyen Dynasty from 1802 to 1945 and the city’s regal past can still be seen inside the walls of the Citadel and the Imperial City. Touring the ancient Imperial Citadel and visit Thien Mu, a beautiful pagoda located right on the bank of Perfume River. Then we will drive through countryside and visit Tu Duc and Khai Dinh Royal tombs. Back to Hotel and the rest of time at your own leisure. Overnight in Hue.
Day 8: Hue - Da Nang - Hoi An (B, L)
This morning we drive to Hoi An, we will cross Hai Van Pass where you will have magnificent view of the East Sea. Stop at Lang Co to have break. Visit the fascinating Cham Museum, famous My Khe Beach and the Marble Mountains en route to charming Hoi An. Known as Faifo to early Western traders, Hoi An Ancient Town is an exceptionally well-preserved example of a South-East Asian trading port dating from the 15th to the 19th century. Its buildings and its street plan reflect the influences, both indigenous and foreign, that have combined to produce this unique heritage site. At leisure for the rest of time. Overnight in Hoi An.
Day 9: Hoi An Cooking Class (B, L)
We start the day (8AM) with a welcome drink at Hai Café – our meeting point.Travel by minivan (10 minutes) to Tra Que Organic Village, and walk through the market gardens where local farmers work their fields using the traditional methods of hundreds of years ago - no electrical machinery here. We pick fresh saw-tooth coriander and Vietnamese mint for our cooking lesson later, before trying a special herbal drink at a local home. To the local village market and with shopping list in hand we purchase a range of local ingredients, including star anise, cardamom, sesame rice paper, water spinach and banana flower. Arriving at Red Bridge Cooking School we have a chance to freshen up before beginning our class. Working together with our Red Bridge Chef we learn the traditional ways of preparing and cooking Vietnamese food from scratch. Using the freshest ingredients and traditional Vietnamese utensils (still in use today) we cook 4 famous dishes, including the national dish ‘Pho’. After the class we sit down and a chance to savour the dishes we have prepared.Leisurely cruise (25 minutes) along the Hoi An River back to central Hoi An. Overnight in Hoi An.
Day 10: Hoi An (B)
Free at leisure at the hotel and then discover Hoi An city by yourself. Overnight in Hoi An.
Day 11: Da Nang - Ho Chi Minh city (B) - by flight
Free time until time transfer to the airport for the ongoing flight to Ho Chi Minh city (VN 1315 – 14:55 – 16:05). Overnight in Ho Chi Minh city.
Day 12: Ho Chi Minh city - Cu Chi Tunnels - Cao Dai Temple (B, L)
08:00 am. Our guide will pick you up at the hotel. This morning you take a drive to Cao Dai Temple in Tay Ninh to observe the midday service. Following lunch we will drive to the Cu Chi Tunnels and then return to HCMC at approximately 18:00PM. Overnight in Ho Chi Minh city.
Day 13: Ho Chi Minh city - Can Tho (B, L)
Leave Ho Chi Minh city, enjoy the scenic journey along the National Highway bordered by green rice fields. On arrived at My Tho, visit Vinh Trang pagoda, take a leisurely boat ride along the river, view stilt houses, fruit plantations and fishing villages along the river bank. Proceed to Tortoise islet, have lunch in the orchard garden. Then a boat ride to An Khanh - a less touristy attraction in Ben Tre, enjoy cruising on a hand-rowed sampan under the shade of the water coconut trees along natural canals. Have a short cycling tour then enjoy seasonal fruit & honey tea to the sound of "Southern Vietnamese folk music", performed by the locals. Visit a family business which epitomizes the idyllic rural lifestyle, taste delicious coconut candy & observe the pastoral life as you roam through fruit plantations and villages. Proceed to Can Tho. Overnight in the hotel (family home-stay with dinner can be arranged on request). Free time to visit bustling Can Tho market. Overnight in Can Tho.
Day 14: Can Tho - Ho Chi Minh city (B, L)
Take a leisurely boat trip to explore the picturesque tributaries of the Lower Mekong river (Bassac River), then proceed to Cai Rang & Phong Dien floating markets, which are the liveliest in the whole religion.Have you ever tasted Vietnamese vermicelli soup? Well, now go and see how it is made. Then wander around the village and meet the friendly local people and experience how to cross a "Monkey bridge" which is built by only one stem of bamboo. Visit the orchard garden. Stop for lunch. On the way back to HCM city by car the last stop is to see how incense sticks are made (optional visit to Mangrove forest which was a former Viet Cong base used by the guerillas during the War can be arranged on request). Overnight in Ho Chi Minh city.
Day 15: Ho Chi Minh city tour - Siem Reap (B, L)
At 08:30 am, you will be a picked up from your hotel.
In the morning we visit:
The Reunification Palace: This is one of the most important buildings in the city.
WarRemnantsMuseum: Formerly known as the Museum of American War Crimes
Notre Dame Cathedral and Old Post Office: Built between 1877 and 1883 this is one of the best examples of classical French colonial architecture.
After lunch at local restaurant we continue to visit:
Cholon, including the Thien Hau Pagoda: Cholon actually means Big Market – a claim that is well justified as Vietnam 's largest market, the Binh Tay, is located here.
Ben Thanh Market: This bustling and well-organized market is very popular with tourists, primarily due to its central location. It has a wide selection of goods ranging from fake Nike shoes to beautiful silk Ao Dais.
Our guide will take you to the airport for the flight to Siem Reap (VN 815 – 19:10 – 20:10). Overnight in Siem Reap.
Day 16: Siem Reap (B, L)
After breakfast, discover some of the other main Angkor sites on a leisurely bicycle ride. First, start our tour to South Gate of Angkor Thom, then go to Angkor Thom (the temple) which was built by Angkor's greatest king, Jayavarman VII. The major attraction of Angkor Thom is the Bayon, whose exact function and symbolism is still unknown until now, then go to Baphoun which is one of the most spectacular of Angkor’s temples in its heyday; Terrace of the Elephants was used as a giant reviewing stand for public ceremonies and served as a base for the king’s grand audience hall; Terrace of the Leper King is another of Angkor’s mysteries. Spend the early afternoon exploring Siem Reap’s colorful markets. Visit Artisans d’Angkor. End your day with a tour to the temples of the Small Circuit by local‘remork’ (similar to the Thai tuk tuk). The most illustrious of these is Ta Prohm, built in the mid 12th to early 13th centuries. Ta Prohm is unique in that it has been left largely as it was found: overgrown by jungle trees and vines, with many parts of the temple crumbling to the ground. This makes the ‘Tomb Raider Temple’ one of the most picturesque and memorable of the Angkor temples. Your visit will also include Banteay Kdei, a Buddhist monastery from the late 12th Century, and Sra Srang, also known as the “pool of ablutions”. Return to the hotel. Overnight in Siem Reap.
Day 17: Siem Reap - Angkor Wat - Bantey Srey (B, L)
Start early to catch the sunrise at Angkor Wat – it surely is a memorable experience to see the first sunrays slowly appear over the five iconic towers. After a breakfast at Angkor Café right in front of the monument (Guests own account), explore the famous temple in depth. Built during the reign of King Suryavarman II in the early 12th century, visit the World Seventh Wonder which is well known as Angkor Wat, which is one of the most important archaeological sites in South-East Asia. Angkor wat stretch over some 400 sq. km, including forested area, Angkor Archaeological Park contains the magnificent remains of the different capitals of the Khmer Empire. We then continue to visit the exquisitely decorated pink sandstone temple of Banteay Srey, whose intricate carving has the example of Khmer classical art remaining and stands as the finest monument ever seen on the planet. On the way back to Siem Reap, stop at the Landmine Museum which promotes mine awareness. Mr. Aki Ra, the museum founder, was trained as a child soldier during the Khmer Rouge regime and is working today as a de-miner. The museum serves also as a rescue center for a number of landmine amputee children that Aki Ra has brought off Phnom Penh’s streets or from impoverished rural communities. Transfer back to Siem Reap in the afternoon for some time at leisure. Overnight in Siem Reap.
Day 18: Siem Reap – Battambang (B, L, D)
After an early breakfast, embark on a private boat that will take you on a fascinating journey across Tonlé Sap Lake to Battambang. You will pass floating villages and flooded forests, portraying life on this body of water that forms Cambodia’s heart. Packed lunch on board (Duration 6-7 hours). (Note: This boat trip is only possible in the high water period from July to December as water levels are too low during the dry season and transfer times can be extremely long. From January to June alternative transfer by road.) Arrive in Battambang and enjoy some rest at the hotel. This afternoon, explore some of the many cultural villages around Battambang, where you will learn how the locals produce rice paper, prahoc (typical Cambodian fish paste), grolan (sticky rice stuffed in bamboo), and other Khmer treats. Tonight, a special visit awaits you at Phare Ponleu Selpak. School of Music, Visual & Performing Arts - Phare Ponleu Selpak combines the arts to provide education, support and entertainment to the poor communities. This project is a success story of how humanitarian aid work can turn into a display of zest for life, genuine warmth and creativity, against all odds. A visit to one of their circus shows will leave you with a lasting memory of the wonderful Cambodian people and should not be missed when in Battambang! (NOTE: The circus performance is only performed regularly on each Monday & Thursday. On other days private performances are available on request and for a supplement). Dinner this evening at Pomme d’Amour with its inventive menu mixing French and Khmer cuisine (Guests own account). Overnight in Battambang.
Day 19: Battambang (B)
Spend the morning on a tour that combines walking, a boat ride and then cycling along and across the Sangke River to experience Battambang daily life. The tour includes prayers with monks as well as rich explanations of the city’s design and artistic heritage. Begin the tour at 7.30 a.m. at the offices of Battambang Bike and get fitted for your bicycle (either a mountain bike or sturdy basket bike). Watch a few minutes of film footage which will help you imagine how developed the town was in its heyday. Battambang has passed from Cambodia to Thailand and back again several times in its history and has an excellent collection of early 20thcentury French colonial architecture that is better preserved and respected than in many other parts of the country. A tour of the main market, Psar Nath includes trying a local coffee. Then walk the few metres to the river and cross a couple of minutes on a local boat to the other side of the Sangke River. Visit Wat Povil temple and take the opportunity to pray with the monks (Note: the monks may observe different rituals according to their calendar though can be seen on a daily basis). It is usually possible to accompany the boats back across the river as they begin their morning alms collection. Once back on the other side it is time to begin the bike tour. The historic 2.5 Street is visited along with a Thai temple before you arrive at a smaller market. Again time for a coffee or a sugar cane juice. Continue a short distance to Wat Kor Village, known for its many old Khmer heritage houses built around a century ago. Visit one of the best preserved homes. Cycle along the river and cross a suspension bridge where only motorbikes and bicycles can pass. On the way back into town there is another short drinks stop before arriving back in the town at approximately 12:45 p.m. The Battambang Bike Set up by a Canadian national who is a lover of architecture and cycling know as Jam. The above tour was designed exclusively for Exotissimo though alternatives can be provided such as dedicated architecture or amateur photography rides. All their tours are pay-as-much-as-you-can for Cambodians in order to provoke interest about their history and the city. The long term goal of Battambang Bike is to pass ownership to a Cambodian to provide a sub stainable and well structured business. Take a break back at your hotel.
In the afternoon head to the Bamboo Train station by Car. The Bamboo Train has been set up by the villagers in order to facilitate the transportation of goods and persons as there are no regular trains running any more. The “train” itself is very basic: one bamboo platform on 4-wheels is activated by a small motor. Sitting on the platform, you will travel the 8 km to the next station through beautiful landscape and rice paddies (depending on season of visit). A true rollercoaster ride without loops! (Note: the train tracks from Battambang to Phnom Penh are currently being rebuilt. The long term future of the bamboo train ride cannot be guaranteed. Should the service stop we will arrange alternative sightseeing). After head towards Phnom Sampeau, meaning “Ship Hill” in Khmer, due to its distinctive shape, and one of the few hills standing out in this otherwise pancake-flat plain. From the small temple on the top, you will have a fantastic view over the typical landscape of paddy fields and sugar palm trees. Phnom Sampeau is home to the notorious killing caves, which are cruel reminders of Cambodia’s troubled past. Serenity and inhumanity represented in one place make this an interesting visit…Your visit will last until dusk – a time when millions of bats emerge from a cave and create patterns as they fly in tandem across the sky – a nightly spectacular show of nature! Overnight in Battambang.
Day 20: Battambang – Phnom Penh (B, L)
Depart Battambang for the overland transfer to Phnom Penh by car (duration 5½ hours not including stops). Starting early travel first to Kampong Chhnang, known for its traditional pottery, with many kilns at work in this province. In a village near Kampong Chhnang, to see the different aspects of pottery making and also experience the production of traditional rice wine. Continue to Oudong, the former royal capital of Cambodia. The drive passes through many rural villages and pagodas, and you will the temple mountain with its dozens of stupas from afar. Upon arrival at Oudong enjoy a traditional Khmer lunch at a picnic hut at the foot of the hill. Then, climb the stairs to the top of Oudong Mountain and enjoy magnificent views over the plains below. Your guide will explain the history of the area and its buildings as well as the religious culture of the Cambodian people. Take your time to soak in the magnificent views over the plains below. Before heading to Phnom Penh stop to take a look at the spectacular Vipassana Dhura Buddhist Meditation Center, also located in Oudong. Your guide can explain more about the school of Vipassana (Insight Meditation) as you tour the center. Don’t forget to see the impressive jade Buddha, the mummified monk and the brightly painted walls telling the story of the Ramayana, the epic Sanskrit poem that decorates many pagodas seen around the country. From here, it is not far to Phnom Penh where you will reach in the late afternoon. Check into your hotel. The evening is at leisure. Overnight in Phnom Penh.
Day 21: Phnom Penh (B, L, D)
This morning, you will visit the most remarkable sights of Phnom Penh in a Cyclo, an original Phnom Penh means of transportation and a fun way to explore this lively city. First, head to the Royal Palace. This palace dates back to 1866 and houses the Silver Pagoda, named for the over 5000 heavy silver tiles that cover its floors. Its original name is Wat Prakeo, meaning Temple of the Emerald Buddha. In this temple you will view a collection of Buddhas in gold, silver, crystal, and bronze. Your next stop is the National Museum, built in traditional Khmer style. It houses the world's foremost collection of ancient Khmer artistic, archaeological, and religious artifacts from the 4th to the 13th centuries. Over 5,000 pieces are on display, constituting the repository of the Kingdom's cultural wealth. In addition, the roof space is home to a large bat colony! For lunch you will be treated to a delicious Khmer meal at Le Lotus Blanc, a lovely charity restaurant where former street children are taught the principles of hospitality (Guest own account). (Note: Le Lotus Blanc is usually closed during national holidays and for the entire month of April over the Khmer New Year holiday.) Option 1: Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum. This afternoon, gain insight into Cambodia’s recent dark history on a visit to the remarkable Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum, housed in the former school that was taken over by the Khmer Rouge and used as its main detention and torture center named ‘S-21’. A grim, but important visit that will allow you to dig below the surface and understand Cambodia better.Visit the fascinating Russian Market, where you will have ample opportunity to shop for some souvenirs. As a contrast pay a visit to the Apsara Arts Association (AAA), a local non-governmental organization created to promote classical and folkloric dance and music. Most of the young students are orphans or from poor families though with the support of AAA are given the opportunity to make a living in promoting Cambodian performing art. Watching the young performers is sure to put a smile on your face as you see the arts being rejuvenated in modern Cambodia! Finish the day at Wat Phnom, the birthplace of the city, located on a small hilltop that forms the highest elevation of Phnom Penh. Enjoy dinner at the renowned Foreign Correspondents’ Club located on the Riverside. The building is a colonial gem with great views of the confluence of the Upper Mekong, Lower Mekong, Bassac and Tonle Sap rivers. Dinner is à la carte with a good selection of both Western and Asian dishes (Guest own account). Overnight in Phnom Penh.
Day 22: Phnom Penh - Sihanoukville (B)
After breakfast transfer to the beach resort of Sihanoukville (duration 4 hours). Arrive around midday and check into your hotel. The rest of the day is at leisure. Overnight in Sihanoukville.
Day 23: Sihanoukville (B)
Breakfast at the hotel. Enjoy your day at leisure. Optional 2: Ream National Park. The park was established in 1993 on a 210 km² area on the Gulf of Thailand that includes thick pristine jungle, mangrove forests and off-shore coral reefs. It's a nature lovers paradise with nearly 200 bird species, many kinds of monkeys and it is also the habitat of the pangolin. You will be transferred to one of Ream’s most scenic isolated beaches, called Koh Sampouch. A BBQ seafood lunch is included in this shared excursion. Overnight in Sihanoukville.
Day 24: Sihanoukville (B)
Breakfast at the hotel. Enjoy your day at leisure. Optional 3: Three Islands tour, Take a boat trip departing 9am to explore three islands giving you the chance to snorkel, fish or just rest and relax. At the first stop you will see colorful corals and fishes at the island of Koh Chaluh. At Bamboo Island enjoy swimming with in the clear waters or relax on a long yellow sandy beach with a coral reef. Have a seafood BBQ lunch with cool drinks and fruit on the beach. After an easy walk of 10 minutes to the other side of Bamboo Island before departing to either Koh Tres for some snorkeling or Koh Takiev for some more beach (please advise at the start of the tour which option you prefer). In the afternoon return to Sihanoukville to arrive 4-5pm. Overnight in Sihanoukville.
Day 25: Sihanoukville - Phnom Penh - Departure (B)
Breakfast at the hotel. This afternoon you will transfer back with driver only to Phnom Penh (Note: For an early departure time a supplementary charge will apply). End of services!