Arrive in Hanoi (D)
You’ll arrive in Hanoi at Noi Bai Airport and meet your local guide and driver then transfer to the city center. Soon you’ll be in front of the illustrious Sword Lake. On a little island within the lake sits Ngoc Son Temple and is connected to the bank by the The Huc Bridge conspicuously painted in red. Ngoc Son Temple was built in honor of the eminent military leader and tactician, Tran Hung Dao. After that, why not mosey on over to the Old Quarter nearby and explore the buzzing sights and sounds and smells of the shophouses, food stalls and friendly pubs. After that you’ll arrive at the water puppet theater to see the scintillating yet quaint performance of this ancient and uniquely Vietnamese art form that’s been performed since the 11th century. After this, you’ll spend one night in Hanoi.
The first day out will be a sightseeing tour of Hanoi which includes the most significant attractions. Visit Ba Dinh Square, a revered and historically significant site where Ho Chi Minh declared Vietnam an independent nation after centuries of being a monarchy. Around Ho Chi Minh’s mausoleum, which is situated in the back of the square, gives ample opportunities for photos. Following that, it would behoove you to take a leisurely stroll through the adjoining Presidential Palace. While sauntering through the garden you will catch a glimpse of some quaint scenes like a large, picturesque fish pond, the wooden house-on-stilts where Ho Chi Minh lived during his last years and the sturdy concrete house where he took his last breath. As you continue on your way out, be sure to visit the famous One-Pillar Pagoda made in the likeness of Guanyin, a goddess in Chinese mythology who is the goddess of mercy and compassion.
Quan Thanh Temple. This traditional Taoist temple was dedicated to Hanoi’s divine protector, Huyen Thien Tran Vu. Inside the temple on the main altar sits a huge bronze statue of Huyen Thien Tran Vu, measuring an imposing 4 meters high and weighing a spectacular 4 tons. The size and the fine details and owing to the expert craftsmanship of the bronze working from the 17th century has made this statue officially a national treasure. After the temple, as you continue along the lake side, you will walk past the memorial of John McCain, former Senator of the US and former US Navy pilot who was famously (infamously?) shot down as in Hanoi during wartime in 1967.
After lunch the tour continues. Next stop is the Temple of Literature and the attached Noble Academy replete with beautifully restored architecture meant to preserve the history of Vietnam’s imperial education. A highlight in the complex is the collection of stone stelae bearing names of the successful mandarin examinees throughout many, many centuries. The last stop will be the Museum of Vietnamese Women; a fascinating reflection of Vietnam’s history and culture seen through the faring of the indomitable and persevering Vietnamese women, particularly over the wartime decades.
Hanoi - Mai Chau (B/L)
You’ll leave Hanoi and be taken on National Route #6 toward Hoa Binh. You’ll visit the Museum of Muong Culture, a private museum in which the dedicated owner strives to reproduce the living spaces in a village of the ethnic Muong people. While strolling around the garden, you can see a collection of wooden houses-on-stilts loaded with curious farming implements and art objects.
Next you’ll be taken on the road toward Mai Chau valley and all the while stop briefly at certain vista points on the hill side to experience sensational panoramic views of the flat green valley below. The tour continues the remaining distance to one of the ethnic Thai minority villages in the valley for a rustic and warm homestay experience. Hop on a rented bicycle and you can pedal about down the scenic back lanes which lead through a number of neighboring villages. Enjoy yourself and the splendid views of the valley and make as many stops as you like to take pictures or make friends with the local Thai. Electric cars are also available as an alternative to bicycles. You are advised to make yourself at home and say hello to your new neighbors! After dinner, you are free to stroll around in the village at your leisure.
Mai Chau - Ninh Binh (B/L)
Leave Mai Chau and take a scenic road trip for Ninh Binh, a land characterized by the beauty of rolling hills, submerged grasslands and a giant monkey called King Kong. Seriously, look it up. Anyway, At Trang An tourist complex you’ll trade your seat in a car for a spot on a hand paddle boat to explore the gorgeous habitat around the UNESCO protected area. The boat trip goes through waterways filled abundantly with karst formations jutting out of the ground, lagoons and sprawling, gently wavering verdant fields of rice.
At some point you’ll disembark from your fancy paddle boat and visit the temples of King Dinh Tien Hoang and King Le Dai Hanh located on the site of their capital named Hoa Lu dating back to the 10th century. The temples were constructed much later in the Le Dynasty around the 15th century and additionally you can find, in the Nhat Tru Pagoda nearby, a sutra pillar made of stone which dates back to the time of the ancient kings.
Ninh Binh - Halong (B/L/D)
By road from Ninh Binh to Halong. After your arrival the first stop is the luxurious and modern Tuan Chau harbor where your cruise vessel awaits to whisk you away.
At close to noon time, the cruise ship slowly departs and briefly moors off shore while lunch is served. While having a hearty meal aboard you’ll be able to leisurely take in the surrounding natural beauty of the bay
After lunch, the ship will be underway and you will soon find yourself at the gaping maws of Sung Sot cave, the largest of its kind within the bay area. The cave features a huge interior adorned with magnificent stalactites and other speleothems. Once you’ve had your fill of spelunking, board the ship once again for a quick stop at little Titov (or Titop) island for some much deserved relaxation time on the beach. At the end of the day, the ship will anchor in a tranquil lagoon at a distance from the other ships in the area in order to facilitate peace and quiet. Later, there will be spectacular on-board entertainment and refreshments to mark the close of the first day of the tour.
Halong - Hanoi (B/L)
The second day begins with a scrumptious breakfast and strong morning coffee among the otherworldly sights all around you. After that The vessel will continue its carefree and breezy passage throughout the karst formations and azure waters back to shore. At or shortly before noon the ship will arrive at the shore where you’ll depart from the cruise ship for the road transfer back to the airport for your flight.
- Private vehicle.
- English speaking tour guide.
- All entrance fees, bicycle/electric car in Mai Chau, boat trip in Trang An, bay cruise package in Halong including meals and twin-shared cabin.
- Meals: 5 breakfast, 5 lunches, 2 dinner.
- Daily wet tissue and drinking water.
- Thai dance show in Mai Chau (if available)
- Kayak and beach services during Halong bay cruise.
- Tips for boat rower in Trang An.
- Tips for driver and guide.