Day 0 January 15: Depart USA to arrive in Hanoi by January 17. (See below left for flight details out of LAX .)
Day 1 January 17: Arrive Hanoi. Overnight Sunway Hotel, Hanoi. (84-4) 39713888
Arrive Hanoi at 9:30A where you will be picked up and transferred Sunway Hotel Hanoi (84-4) 39713888. Spend the rest of the day doing what you can to recover from the long flight. Dinner and overnight in Sunway Hotel Hanoi.
Day 2 January 18: Tour of Hanoi. Overnight Hanoi.
Hanoi, a city of lakes, shaded boulevards and public parks, is the capital of Vietnam. It is a very attractive city with French style buildings and less traffic than other cities in Asia.
ONE PILLAR PAGODA: built by the Emperor Ly Thai Tong, who ruled from 1028 to 1054. Constructed of wood on a single stone pillar, it is designed to resemble a lotus blossom.
TEMPLE OF LITERATURE: a peaceful series of walled courtyards and graceful gateways, this momument is one of the best-preserved examples of traditional Vietnamese architecture. Founded in 1070 and dedicated to Confucius, this was also the site of Vietnam’s first university. In one courtyard, giant stone tortoises bear stelae on their backs, listing the accomplishments of graduating scholars.
HO CHI MINH MAUSOLEUM: This commanding stone monument houses the embalmed remains of Ho Chi Minh, Vietnams national hero and is a pilgrimage site for many Vietnamese. Visitors file silently past his glass tomb to pay their respects. The Mausoleum is open only in the mornings, and is closed on Mondays and Fridays. Every year, it closes in October and November for renovation and maintenance.
HO CHI MINH’S STILT HOUSE: Near the Mausoleum is the two room stilt house where Ho Chi Minh lived from 1948 until his final days. Visitors also pass the simple three-room bungalow where Ho Chi Minh lived and worked from 1954-8, which has been preserved in the same condition and may be viewed through the windows.
Visit the old quarter of Hanoi. It is also called “36 streets,” most of which are named after the crafts or merchandise traditionally sold there. Also, visit a Water Puppet Show, a fantastic art form originating in northern Vietnam, best seen in Hanoi. The Municipal Water Puppet Theater is located on the shores of Hoan Kiem Lake. Dinner and overnight in Sunway HotelHanoi.
Day 3 January 19: Drive to Halong Bay and board Junk for cruise on Halong Bay. Overnight on Junk.
Drive east about 3 hours to Halong Bay and board the Bai Tho Junk 1, a traditional Vietnamese junk, for an overnight cruise. These traditionally built junks have facilities of the highest standard, which include double cabins with bathrooms, a spacious dining room serving traditional Vietnamese cuisine, plus a large sun deck area. The first day’s itinerary passes Dinh Huong island, Ga Choi Island, Sung Sot cave, before stopping at Titov beach for a swim. Dinner is served on the boat as the sun sets.
Day 4 January 20: Disembark Junk, and return to Hanoi for flight to Hue. Overnight in Saigon Morin Hotel, Hue.(84-54) 3823526
Enjoy breakfast on board, while continuing to cruise around the waters of the bays, visiting Man’s Head Island, Tortoise Island and Luon cave. Return to the pier just before noon and disembark. Return to Hanoi to board flight to Hue.
Day 5 January 21: Tour of Hue. Overnight Saigon Marin Hotel, Hue.
Hue served as the capital of Vietnam for more than 140 years. It houses ancient temples, imperial buildings and French-style edifices. It was established in the 17th century. Visit the Old Imperial City:
IMPERIAL CITY: this is in the Citadel and was built in the early 19th century and modeled after the Forbidden City in Peking. There are numerous palaces and temples within these walls, as well as towers, a library and a museum.
NGO MON GATE: this is the principal entrance to the Imperial Enclosure and faces the Flag Tower. The central passageway with its yellow doors was reserved for use by the emperor, as was the bridge across the lotus pond.
THAI HOA PALACE: built in 1803 and moved to its present site in 1833, Thai Hoa Palace is a spacious hall with an ornate roof of huge timbers supported by 80 carved and lacquered columns.
HALLS OF THE MANDARINS: these buildings, in which the mandarins prepared for court ceremonies, held in Can Chanh Reception Hall, were restored in 1977.
NINE DYNASTIC URNS: these were cast in 1835-36. Traditional ornamentation was then chiselled into the sides of the urns, each dedicated to a different Nguyen sovereign. FORBIDDEN PURPLE CITY: this was reserved for the personal use of the emperor. The only servants allowed into the compound were eunuchs, who would pose no threat to the royal concubines.
TU DUC TOMB: Emperor Tu Duc, who ruled Hue more than 100 years ago, built his tomb when he was still alive and used it for meditation, reading and theater performances. There are pavilions in a tranquil setting of forested hills and lakes. The tomb was constructed between 1864 and 1867. Tu Duc, who was the longest reigning Emperor, lived a luxurious life.
Day 6 January 22: Morning, Drive to Hoi An via Hai Van Pass and Danang. Overnight Life Heritage Resort, Hoi An. (84-510) 914555
Morning sightseeing of the Thien Mu Pagoda and Tomb of Emperor Minh Mang with boat trip. Then drive south along picturesque Highway 1 to Danang, where you’ll visit the Cham Museum. Continue to Hoi An and check in at your hotel. Hoi An is a picturesque riverside town south of Danang. 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.
Day 7 January 23: Tour to My Son and return by boat to Hoi An. Overnight Hoi An.
Journey to MY SON, the former religious center of the Champa Kingdom, a sophisticated civilization which held sway over the region from the 4th to the 13th centuries. Today, all that are left are five archaeological sites from different periods, in a beautifully green setting of hills and winding streams. After a brief visit to the VISITOR’S CENTER for an overview of Cham history and culture, visit each ruin in turn, walking along forested paths.
Day 8 January 24: Fly from Hoi An to Cam Ranh, Drive to Dalat. Walking tour of Dalat. Overnight Novotel, Dalat. (84-63) 3825777
Nestled in the mountains, DALAT is a charming former colonial hill station with an abundance of colorful parks, lakes, gardens and waterfalls. Its ever temperate climate has earned it the name and City of Eternal Spring. In the afternoon, take a walking tour of Dalat. Begin at XUAN HUONG LAKE, located in the heart of Dalat and a pleasant place for a stroll. Stroll around the FRENCH DISTRICT, whose atmosphere is reminiscent of a provincal town in France and visit the DALAT CATHEDRAL. Continue to whimsical HANG NGA ART GALLERY, nicknamed the CRAZY HOUSE by locals. Finally, visit the FLOWER GARDEN, with a profusion of colorful blooms, including flowers rarely seen elsewhere in Vietnam.
Day 9 January 25: Tour to Lat Village and Lang Bian Mtn. Flight to Saigon. Overnight Duxton Hotel, Saigon. (84-8) 38222999
Morning, travel outside the town to LAT VILLAGE, a group of nine villages located at the base of LANG BIAN MOUNTAIN. Five of the villages are of the LAT ethnic group, while the other four are Chill, Ma and Koho.
Afternoon, transfer to the Dalat Airport for flight to Saigon. Upon arrival, transfer to the hotel for check in. Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon) is the largest of Vietnamese cities. There are street markets, pavement cafes and sleek new cafes and pubs. The city hurns and bubbles with activity. Yet within this teeming metropolis are 300 years of timeless traditions and the beauty of an ancient culture.
Day 10 January 26: Tour of Saigon. Overnight Saigon.
In the morning, visit the major sights including Notre Dame Cathedral, the Central Post Office, the War Remnants Museum, and the Museum of Vietnamese History.
Day 11 January 27: Excursion to Tay Ninh. Transfer to airport for flight to Siem Reap. Visit hilltop temple for sunset over Angkor Wat. Overnight Khemara Angkor Hotel,Siem Reap. (855-63) 760666
From Saigon, drive to TAY NINH, the birthplace of the unique CAO DAI religion, a fusion of Buddhism, Confucianism, Taoism, Christianity, Islam and native Vietnamese spiritual beliefs. Every day at noon, worshippers garbed in colorful robes flock to the CAO DAI GREAT TEMPLE to participate in the daily prayer sessions, which visitors may respectfully observe from the upper balconies. Return to Saigon in the afternoon. Transfer to the airport for flight to Siem Reap. Upon arrival, transfer to your hotel for check in. Watch the sun set over the Cambodian countryside from the upper terraces of an ancient Angkorian temple.
Day 12 January 28: Visit Angkor sights. Overnight Siem Reap.
The fortified city of ANGKOR THOM covers an area of 10 square km. Enclosed by a wall and wide moats, the city includes many of Angkor’s most popular sights. Enter by the monumental SOUTH GATE over a causeway lined on either side by statues of demons and gods, each carrying a giant naga. Continue to the TERRACE OF THE ELEPHANTS and the TERRACE OF THE LEPER KINGS, former spaces for public cermonies, both adorned with dramatic bas reliefs. Visit the ruined BAPHUON, ROYAL ENCLOSURE and PHIMEANAKAS before continuing to the mysterious BAYON TEMPLE. In this temple, one of the most popular and compelling in Angkor, explore the galleries of beautifully preserved bas reliefs and ascend narrow stairs to reach the central sanctuary, where you will find giant stone faces smiling enigmatically down at you from every angle.
The crowning jewel of Khmer architecture, ANGKOR WAT is the national symbol and the highlight of any visit to Cambodia. The largest, best preserved, and most religiously significant of the Angkor temples, Angkor impresses visitors both by its sheer scale and beautifully proportioned layout, as well as the delicate artistry of its carvings. To approach the temple, first cross the vast moat, continuing along a broad causeway lined with naga balustrades. As you enter the main building, ascend through a series of galleries and courtyards before reaching the central sanctuary, which offers beautiful views over the causeway and the surrounding countryside. On the way, stop to enjoy the stonecarvings that adorn nearly every surface, with some 1,700 Apsaras, or celestial dancers, sculpted into the walls. Along the outer gallery walls run the longest continuous bas-relief in the world, which narrates stories from Hindu mythology, including the famous “Churning of the Ocean of Milk”. Angkor Wat is stunning at any time of the day, but sunrise and sunset are especially beautiful times to watch the play of light on the stones.
TA PROHM: one of the most popular attractions of Angkor as much of the jungle has not been cleared and it looks very much as most of the Angkor monuments would have appeared when European explorers first stumbled across them.
Day 13 January 29: Visit Angkor Sights. Overnight Siem Reap.
Seemingly miniature in comparison to the other Angkor temples, BANTEAY SREI is considered to be the jewel of classical Khmer art. Built in pink sandstone, the walls are covered in exquisitely preserved carvings of unusual delicacy. Because of its small size, fairy-like atmosphere and extraordinary examples of Khmer sculpture, this temple is often a favorite with visitors.
BANTEAY SAMRE is a mid-12th century temple dedicated to the god Vishnu.
PREAH KHAN: a temple built by King Jayavarman VII with towered enclosures and shoulder-hugging corridors in a jungle setting. Preah Khan covers a very large area but the temple itself is enclosed within a rectangular wall of around 700 by 800 meters.
NEAK PEAN: built by King Jayavarman VII (ruled 1181 to 1201), it is a Buddhist temple consisting of a square pool with four smaller square pools arranged on each axis. In the centre of the large central pool is a circular island encircled by two nagas with intertwined tails.
EASTERN MEBON: temple erected by Rajendravarman (ruled from 944 to 968), it islocated on a former islet in the centre of the Eastern Baray. The base of the temple is guarded at its corners by stone figures of harnessed elephants.
Day 14 January 30: Siem Reap to Bangkok by flight. Overnight Century Park Hotel, Bangkok. (66) 02-246 7800
Transfer to the airport in time for 9:50 flight to Bangok. Upon arrival at 10:45, transfer to your hotel for check in. After lunch (independent), optional visit to Lambert Industries, a highly recommended jewelry store. Their specialty is gem stones.
Day 15 January 31: Tour of Highlights of Bangkok. Overnight Bangkok.
Enjoy the full-day, privately-guided Highlights of Bangkok tour. You will be picked up at and returned directly to your hotel. Visit the Grand Palace with the Emerald Buddha and Wat Po where you will see the famous Reclining Buddha. The temple of Wat Po is also a famous Thai Massage training center, where you will enjoy a 30-minute traditional massage. After a local lunch, enjoy boat ride through the Klongs (canals) with visit to Wat Arun (Temple of dawn). Enjoy a walk through the flower market before the last visit to the Golden Mountain.
Day 16 February 1: Tour to Floating Market and River Kwai. Overnight Bangkok.
Floating Market – The Damnoen Saduak Floating Market is located in Ratchaburi Province. According to history around 1866 King Rama IV ordered that a 32 kms long canal be dug at Damnoen Saduak. This canal would connect the Mae Klong River with the Tacheen River. The excellent quality soil beside the canal is very fertile and suitable for growing many kinds of fruits and vegetables. The area is famous for Malacca grape, Chinese grapefruit, mangoes, bananas, and coconut. The Damnoen Saduak Floating Market is a very attractive place for tourists to see the old style and traditional way of selling and buying fruits, vegetables, etc., from small boats. Tourists will also see traditional Thai houses, the way they live and travel by boats, and please try riding on a small boat to experience the floating market and to see more. This is a worthwhile trip. River Kwai – Apart from the fascinating natural geography, many of its major attraction are also connected with the Second World War; The Bridge over the River Kwai – still in use today, it was the target of frequent Allied bombing raids during 1945, and was rebuilt after the war end, The JEATH Museum – an enclave constructed largely in the form of an Allied prisoners of war camp with the collection of photographs displayed, War Cemetery – it contains the remains over 6000 prisoners of war who perished during the construction of the “Death Railway”, Hell Fire Pass – this is a part of the Death Railway, constructed during the Second World War and now abandoned. A long passage made through the Stone Mountain by the Allied prisoners indicates the extreme difficulty in construction the Death Railway. To the visitors to Kanchanaburi (River Kwai) Province, remember that these sites memorials were constructed not to maintain and profit the hatred amongst human being particularly between the Japanese and Allied countries, but to warn and teach us the harsh reality of WAR and help prevent such a terrible thing ever happening again.
Day 17 February 2: Transfer to airport for flight to Chiang Mai. Tour to Doi Suthep. Overnight Chiang Mai Plaza, Chiang Mai. (66) 05-3903161
After check in, you’ll go on a half-day tour to the Doi Suthep Temple in the mountains near Chiang Mai.
Day 18 February 3: Tour to Elephant Camp and River Rafting. Overnight Chiang Mai.
Leave for the Chiang Dao young Elephant training camp (56 kms, away) in the morning, observing the elephants take their morning bath in the stream before commencing their daily works such as pulling logs, pilling up logs and other interesting activities. Then, you will experience in riding elephants into the jungle. Then, you will start your next adventure in a bamboo rafting down a stretch of the Ping River. Lunch will be provided. Late afternoon arrives back at your hotel.
Day 19 February 4: Tour to Chiang Rai and the Golden Triangle. Return to Bangkok. Overnight Century Park Hotel, Bangkok.
Today you’ll visit Chiang Rai and the Golden Triangle. Leave for Chiang Rai by road, crossing mountains and valleys. Enjoy picturesque landscapes, a rich source of forestry where you can enjoy its beauty scenery and atmosphere. First stop is Wiang Pa Pao, one of famous areas for a Hot Spring. On the way, will make another stop to visit Mae Chan where Yao and Akha hill tribe villages are situated. After that continuing to Mae Sai the furthest northern trading border town between Thailand and Myanma. It is a busy trading town where you spend times to shop for your souvenirs from Chiang Rai Trip. Local lunch will be provided. After fill-up with a delicious Thai style Lunch, tour will take you to the Golden Triangle area, where the border of Thailand, Burma and Laos meet. Then, visit Chiang Saen (A.D. 1260), the ancient city of Chiang Rai, on the steep banks of Mae Khong River, opposite Laos. Witness some magnificent, ancient ruins and temples. Transfer to Chang Rai airport to return to Bangkok. Depart Chang Rai 8:20 pm, arriving in Bangkok at 9:35 pm. Transfer to hotel.
Day 20 February 5: Transfer to the Bangkok airport for flight back to USA or travel independently.
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