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Old 11-19-2009, 12:53 PM   #1
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Join Date: Nov 2009
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Essence of Vietnam

Trip Code: P14D9
Trip Highlights: Hanoi-Mai Chau- Cruise In Ha Long Bay-Imperial Hue-Heritage Hoi An-Vibrant Ho Chi Minh City- Mighty Mekong
Trip Duration: 14 DAYS
Grade: Luxury- Easy
Group Size: From 6 to 15 PAX

From $USD 1078*

Day 1: Hanoi arrival (D)
Welcome to Essence of Vietnam. We start our tour in the charming city of Hanoi. A walking tour will introduce us to the very essence of Vietnam - its rituals, heritage and the people. We will meander the banner lined streets of the old quarter and savor the atmosphere of the cafes on Hanoi’s misty Hoan Kiem Lake. Our cyclo ride through the French quarter will deliver us in style to dinner at one of Hanoi’s finest establishments. The night will be capped with a magical performance at the famed Thang Long Water Puppet Theater or with a folk performance set in one of Hanoi’s charming pagodas.
Stay in Hanoi.

Day 2: Hanoi City tour (B,L)
Today we will tour the Mausoleum complex, the presidential palace, the one pillar pagoda and Ho Chi Minh’s stilt house.Our leisurely stroll will also include some of Hanoi’s picturesque offerings including the Lake of the Restored Sword, Ngoc Son Temple, the 1000 year old Temple of Literature, the misty expanse of West Lake, Thanh Nien boulevard, the serene Tran Quoc Pagoda and Quan Thanh Temple. The tour will conclude with a visit to the acclaimed Ethnology Museum.
Stay in Hanoi.

Day 3: Hanoi – Mai Chau (B,L,D)
From the frenetic pace of Hanoi city we will travel westwards to the valleys of Hoa Binh, where limestone outcrops soar amongst the lush expanses of rice paddies. This region is home to many Thai ethnic groups, whose agrarian lifestyle hasn’t changed greatly over many generations. Their main livelihood includes rice farming and texile weaving. Tonight we will enjoy a homestay experience in the Thai village of Mai Chau. As sun sets behind the surrounding mountain ranges, we will enjoy a banquet dinner with our host family.
Stay in Mai Chau.

Day 4: Mai Chau- Hanoi (B,L)
A light walk through the paddies and surrounding villages will take us to some wonderful vantage points overlooking Mai Chau valley. Our walk will take us through bamboo groves, tapioca farms and stilt houses perched atop rice terraces. We will farewell our hosts after lunch and return to the urban centre of Hanoi.
Stay in Hanoi .

Day 5: Ha Long Bay (B,L,D)
Today our tour will cross the Red River Delta to the majestic bay of Halong. We will cruise the crystalline emerald waters on board a replica junk boat and nestle amongst Halong’s soaring limestone outcrops for some swimming and other beach activities. Our tour of the bay will include a visit to one of the world’s largest preserved stalactite caves. The stunning scenery of Halong will be the backdrop to our sumptuous seafood lunch and dinner onboard.
Stay in Ha Long Bay.

Day 6: Ha Long Bay- Hanoi (B,L)
Rise to the sound of the bay awakening. We will continue our cruise of the bay and enjoy breakfast and lunch onboard before making the return trip to Halong port. The afternoon return drive to Hanoi will include a stopover in the artisan village of Dong Trieu. Famed for its ceramic production Dong Trieu is an example of Vietnam’s thriving handicraft industry.
Stay in Hanoi.

Day 7: Hanoi - Hue(B,L)
From the charm of Hanoi we will fly to the Imperial city of Hue. This afternoon we will board our private boat for a cruise on the picturesque Huong River. As we lunch on board our cruise master will take us to the banks of Thien Mu Pagoda for a guided tour of this significant historical monument. Our tour of Hue will also include the grand citadel of the Forbidden City.
Stay in Hue.

Day 8: Hue – Hoi An (B,L)
Taking the coastal road southwards, we will pass quiet fishing coves and cross the peak of Hai Van pass with its panoramic view of China Beach. Our destination is the picturesque town of Hoi An. En route we will visit Danang’s Cham Museum. Our stay in Hoi An is a great opportunity to enjoy yourself at your own pace. You may choose to relax in the cafes, visit the historic terraces or enjoy a swim at nearby Cua Dai beach. There is much to also satisfy the avid shopper with hundreds of tailors and craftspeople located in town.
Stay in Hoi An.

Day 9: Hoi An (B,L)
A walking tour of town will take us through Hoi An’s cobble stoned streets. A thriving trade centre since the 16th century, Hoi An has been influenced by the wealth of merchants passing and settling in the region. Recently heritage listed by UNESCO, Hoi An residences have undergone faithful restorations and are now open to the public to enjoy. We will meet one of the oldest families of Hoi An, the Tan Kys and tour their ancestral home. We will cross the Japanese bridge and crisscross the narrow streets of this living museum. Enjoy a free afternoon at leisure in Hoi An. Niche TravelTM recommends: “Evening strolls in Hoi An are a real delight, with dimly lit lanterns bathing the streets and riverfront. Take the opportunity to savour the unique atmosphere at one of Hoi An’s street facing cafes.”
Stay in Hoi An.

Day 10: Free in Hoi An (B)
Enjoy a free day at leisure in Hoi An. Niche TravelTM recommends: “Having a custom tailored outfit is a real treat, but nothing beats the luxury of bathing on Cua Dai beach and enjoying freshly caught and bbq’d crab with a glass of local ale from one of the fishermen’s huts.”
Stay in Hoi An.

Day 11: Hoi An –Ho Chi Minh City (B,L)
Today we transfer to Danang airport for the one hour flight to HCMC (Saigon). Upon arrival we will transfer directly to our centrally located hotel. With a short break for lunch, we take to Saigon’s tree lined boulevards for our city tour. We will visit the sprawling commercial hub of Chinatown (Cholon) including the chaotic Binh Tay market area and the string of pagodas along Nguyen Trai boulevard.
Stay in Ho Chi Minh City.

Day 12: Ho Chi Minh City- Mekong Delta (B,L,D)
This morning we set off for the magnificent Mekong Delta. Known as the ‘food bowl of Vietnam’, the Mekong is a maze of fertile waterways and host to many floating markets, the largest being Vinh Long. From the vast expanses of the Mekong to the lush narrow canals, we will visit some of the local artisan and farming families for a unique insight into life on the delta. Our visit to the local bonsai nursery will host us for a friendly and spicy Delta lunch.This evening we will homestay on the Mekong in a colonial era homestead or river stilt house surrounded by longan, mango and rumbutan trees.
Stay in Mekong Delta.

Day 13: Mekong Delta – Ho Chi Minh City (B,L)
Today we start early with a tour of the sunrise markets at Cai Be. Cruising in our boat, we will dock side by side with sampans laden high with mammoth mangoes and other locally grown produce. Juicy longans, milk fruit, creamy egg fruit, mangosteens and sinewy jack fruit are just some of the delights you will have the opportunity to try. Our cruise through Cai Be will also take us to the orchards that produce the fruit sampled. Basic to all Vietnamese kitchens are Pho rice noodles. Like pasta, there are an infinite number of variations to suit every possible need. We will visit one of the local manufacturers to see how they are prepared. With our Mekong sojourn coming to an end, we will return to HCMC for our final dinner together.
Stay in Ho Chi Minh City.

Day 14: Depart Vietnam (B)
The final day of ESSENCE OF VIETNAM may be spent at leisure. We welcome you to join us on a complimenting NICHE TRAVEL experience or transfer and farewell you at Tan Son Nhat airport.

End of service.
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