Day 1 : Day 1 in Hanoi
Xin chao! Welcome to Hanoi! Your adventure begins with a welcome meeting at 6 pm. If you arrive before your tour begins there’s plenty to see and do. Consider booking the Hanoi Morning Highlights Urban Adventure, a wide-ranging tour with a local expert guide. This optional tour visits the Temple of Literature, stops by a traditional tea house, and takes you through the Hoa Lo Prison Memorial before concluding at Hoan Kiem Lake. Or maybe take it at your own pace and wander the Old Quarter to admire the city’s French-colonial architecture.
Day 2 : Day 2 in Halong Bay
Travel by private minibus to World Heritage-listed Halong Bay, which is dotted with sandy coves, grottoes and 1600 limestone islands formed over millennia by wind and water erosion (approximately 4 hours). Board a private boat and cruise the bay, exploring island caves and perhaps even enjoying a swim from Ti Top Island Beach during the warmer months. To end the day, spend an evening aboard the boat beneath the night sky. What better way to get to know your fellow travellers than an old school sleepover in an unforgettable location?
Meals :Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner
Day 3 : Day 3 in Hanoi – Overnight train
Return by boat to Halong Bay. At approximately midday, return to Hanoi by bus. Arrive late this afternoon and enjoy free time until tonight’s train voyage. Be sure to grab a bowl of pho while you’re in town and slurp down this local specialty made from broth, noodles and meat. Maybe chill by Hoan Kiem Lake until you board an overnight train to Hue this evening.
Day 4 : Day 4 in Hue
Arrive in Hue at approximately 11 am and transfer to the hotel. Once the imperial capital of Vietnam, Hue holds the treasures of the country’s royal past. Enjoy free time in the morning to rest or explore. If you choose the latter (and who can blame you) the bustling Dong Ba Market is a great place to sample some of the specialties that once graced the Nguyen emperors' tables like banh khoai (royal rice cake). Reunite with the group to visit the war-damaged ruins of the Imperial Citadel, a sprawling city-within-a-city which contains the remains of temples, state houses and the emperor’s palace.
Day 5 : Day 5 in Hue
See Hue like a local – from the back of a motorbike! Straddle the saddle and whiz around town with a local guide, taking in historic and contemporary sights along the way. Stop at Thanh Toan to see the 18th-century covered bridge and villagers shopping at their local market. Visit the 17th-century active Buddhist monastery of Thien Mu Pagoda and see the car that belonged to Thích Quang Duc, the monk who self-immolated in 1963 in protest against the treatment of Buddhists by the South Vietnamese regime. Enjoy a short boat cruise down the Perfume River before a vegetarian feast in a nunnery. Finish at the lakeside royal tomb of Emperor Tu Duc before heading back to town.
Meals :Breakfast, Lunch
Day 6 : Day 6 in Hoi An
This morning travel by bus through coastal rice paddies and the spectacular Hai Van Pass (approximately 3 hours). After a photo stop en route, arrive into Hoi An. Recently declared a World Heritage site, Hoi An was a major international trading port during the 17th, 18th and 19th centuries. Today, parts of the beautifully-preserved town retain the feel of centuries past. It's also a shopping mecca, famous for its plethora of tailors. On arrival your leader will take you on a sightseeing walk through the Old Town to visit a handful of the city's major attractions. You’ll also be given a sightseeing pass so you can further explore select attractions at your leisure.
Day 7 : Day 7 in Hoi An
Today is a free day to explore Hoi An. Maybe browse the cobbled streets and art galleries or hire a bike and cycle through rice paddies out to Cua Dai Beach. Maybe browse for paintings, ceramics and colourful cloth lanterns in the town’s markets and preserved Chinese shophouses. If you’re craving a new look, you could pay a visit to one of the hundreds of tailors and get something special made. Hoi An is also known for its delicious regional food, so be sure to enjoy a meal at a riverside restaurant or perhaps partake in a cooking class.
Day 8 : Day 8 in Ho Chi Minh City
Today take a short, early morning flight to Ho Chi Minh City (approximately 1.5 hours). Formerly known as Saigon, Ho Chi Minh City has a fascinating history and is arguably Vietnam’s capital of commerce and culture. After landing, take a sightseeing tour around the city by bus. Pass the Reunification Palace, Notre Dame Cathedral and the Opera House, then stop in at the War Remnants Museum to discover some of the sobering stories of the 20-year-long Vietnam/American War.
Day 9 : Day 9 in Mekong Delta – Ho Chi Minh City
This morning head out on a day trip to explore the Mekong Delta. Board a private boat to Ben Tre to visit the coconut gardens and stop at a local home to sample tropical fruits and coconut jams. Afterwards, paddle in sampans (small rowing boats) past coconut trees along the Mekong Delta. Take a tuk-tuk tour around the villages and learn about rural life and the industry created around coconut products like brooms and coconut fibre mats. Eat lunch at a restaurant in the heart of the Delta, sampling regional specialties such as the famous elephant ear fish. Cruise the major waterways to Ben Tre boat pier, then return by bus to Ho Chi Minh City. Enjoy dinner this evening at KOTO, the restaurant arm of an organisation dedicated to developing the hospitality careers of marginalised young people.
Meals :Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner
Day 10 : Day 10 in Ho Chi Minh City
Enjoy a free day in Ho Chi Minh to get out and discover the city at your own pace. Alternatively, why not get an up close and personal history lesson on guerrilla warfare during an Urban Adventures tour to the Cu Chi tunnels. This underground network in the middle of the jungle was used by the Viet Cong during the war. Take the chance to climb into the tunnels and imagine what it would’ve been like to eat, sleep, work and cook – even go to school underground as conflict raged above. Return to Ho Chi Minh where there will be a meeting at 6 pm to welcome any new travellers joining you on the next stage of your adventure. Afterwards, perhaps get to know your new travel buddies over an optional group dinner.
Day 11 : Day 11 in Phnom Penh
Travel by public bus through rural Vietnam and Cambodia to Phnom Penh (approx. 10 hours including two border crossings and lunch). You will cross the border, exiting Vietnam at Moc Bai and entering Cambodia at Ba Vet. Your leader will assist you with border crossing procedures. Cambodia's capital city is set on a major junction of the Mekong and Tonle Sap rivers and boasts some fine examples of French-inspired architecture. If you're looking for a tasty beverage on arrival, head to the Foreign Correspondents' Club for a mojito on the rooftop. If you're in the mood for shopping, stop in at the art-deco Psar Thmei (Central Market) or travel out to Psar Tuol Tom Pong (the Russian Market) for the best range of local souvenirs.
Day 12 : Day 12 in Phnom Penh
Today, confront Cambodia's tragic past on a guided tour of the Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum (S21), a former school which served as a Khmer Rouge torture centre. It's estimated that more than 20,000 people were held and tortured here. You’ll also head out to the Killing Fields of Choeung Ek, where a stupa made up of some 8000 human skulls marks the execution ground for the torture victims of Tuol Sleng. Afterwards, you may wish to learn about a brighter period in Cambodian history from an optional visit to the Royal Palace and Silver Pagoda. Wat Phnom, shrouded in myth, is equally worth a visit, as is the National Museum with its excellent Khmer collection. Cyclo tours around the city are a great alternative to walking and generally include the Central Market, US Embassy, Wat Phnom, Mekong riverfront, Independence Monument and Royal Palace.
Day 13 : Day 13 in Battambang
Travel by private minibus to Battambang (approximately 6 hours). Break up an otherwise long trip with a visit to Kampong Luong, a marvellously colourful village that floats on the water. Spend an hour traversing between houses and other boats before hitting the road once more. Cambodia's second-largest city, Battambang, is a pretty riverside town of French elegance, friendly Khmer people and beautifully preserved colonial architecture. Why not take part in an optional cooking class to learn the secrets of local dishes such as amok, Khmer curry & fried spicy chicken.
Day 14 : Day 14 in Siem Reap
Spend a bit of time riding around the countryside by bike, travelling out to local cottage industries to meet with on-site producers. Get a better insight into rural life in Cambodia, share a few snacks, then continue by private minibus to Siem Reap (approximately 3 hours). Arrive in Siem Reap in the evening and relax as you prepare for your much-anticipated visit to Angkor tomorrow. Perhaps hit the markets for some delicious street food.
Day 15 : Day 15 in Siem Reap / Angkor Wat
Temple-hop with your local guide and make the most of your visit to the world-famous Angkor complex. The temples, dating back as far as the ninth century, were believed to represent the cosmic world and were set in perfect balance, symmetry and composition. The intricately carved bas-reliefs and architectural designs are mind-blowing and there are spectacular photo opportunities at any time of day. Watching a sunrise or sunset is a must. The ruins are scattered over an area of some 160 square kilometres, but the main cluster of temples is close to Siem Reap, so there will be plenty of time to fully appreciate the great archaeological sites of Angkor Wat, Bayon and the jungle-covered Ta Prohm.
Day 16 : Day 16 in Siem Reap / Angkor Wat
Continue your explorations of the Angkor complex. You may like to spend just the morning making further discoveries here and save your afternoon for an optional activity elsewhere. Keen adventurers can take the Angkor zip-line adventure which gives an amazing birds-eye view of the rainforest, not to mention an adrenaline rush.
Day 17 : Day 17 in Bangkok
It's a long drive by private minibus from Siem Reap to Bangkok (approximately 10 hours including border crossings and lunch). Arrive in Thailand's bustling capital and take in this exciting world of tuk tuks, khlong boats, and street vendors serving up delicious Thai food. Perhaps head out to sample some local specialties as a final farewell with your fellow travellers.
Day 18 : Day 18 in Bangkok
Your trip comes to an end this morning, with no further activities planned. However, if you have more time, Bangkok is full of things to do, including the Grand Palace, Temple of the Emerald Buddha, and the fascinating Jim Thompson museum.