A R T E N C O U N T E R : V I E T N A M April 15 to 27, 2012
April 14, 2012 En route to Vietnam
Fly Cathay Pacific from London, Vancouver, New York, Los Angeles, or San Francisco to Hanoi, Vietnam (add-on segments can be arranged).
Optional pre-tour stopover in Hong Kong en route to Vietnam (or following trip). Explore this vibrant metropolitan port city that grew from a small British colony to a thriving city-state that served as the crossroads of Asia's trade for decades.
Bustling markets, busy boulevards, and tall buildings and mountains afford sweeping views of all Hong Kong. The perfect place for a short stopover of one to two days.
Contemporary gallery options in the Central include Hanart Tz, Grotto (featuring Hong Kong-based artists), Plum Blossoms (also carrying early Chinese textiles), and Shoeni, which is currently exhibiting "Destiny," a solo exhibition by Zhou Jin Hua. Further afield, in Mid-Levels on the quiet Prince's Terrace, are three up and coming galleries, including Korkos, 5 O.P.T Studio, and Chouinard. Antique textiles, including Tibetan, are featured at the Teresa Coleman Gallery (and subsidiary The Tibetan Gallery), and the Hanlin Gallery has a collection of antique Chinese and Japanese textiles.
April 15 , Arrive Hanoi
Arrive at the rustic, war-era Noi Bai Airport outside of Hanoi where you will be met by our local representative who will take you to the historic Metropole, our hotel on Hoan Kiem Lake, featured in Graham Greene's The Quiet American.
After check-in in, introductions over refreshments and lunch orientation, followed by a cruise around the lake area by pedal-powered cyclo (pedicab), soaking up Hanoi's stoic atmosphere along busy streets and lively Old Quarter. In the evening, delightful water puppets theater, a magical puppet show where the puppets emerge from the surface of a small watery stage telling tales of old Vietnam, a performance art unique to Vietnam.
Dinner at Green Tangerine, a lovingly restored 1928 colonial in the center of the Old Quarter featuring French-Vietnamese cuisine.
Escort: Mr. Lam Nguyen, Mobile: 0913 222 158.
April 16, Hanoi to Halong Bay
Transfer by private van. On the way, we will stop at Noodle Village, the childhood home of our culinary escort, Diep Leto, where we will meet the residents and see the delicious noodles being made for the famous traditional soup, Pho.
The Gulf of Tonkin was once the haunt of Vietnamese and Chinese pirates, and in Halong Bay the romance of old Vietnam still lingers, with scenic karst islets randomly scattered and the odd red-sailed junks lazing across the languid waters. With 3,000 limestone and dolomite islets sprinkled over an area of 1,500 square kilometers, this UNESCO World Heritage Site is a geographic wonderland.
Arrive Halong port and board private traditional wooden cruiser (replica junk) for a private tour of Halong Bay with a seafood lunch banquet prepared on board. Exploration of Sung Sot Cave, the largest grotto in Halong. Afterwards, optional assisted kayaking — paddling Halong Bay and exploration of the bay by kayak, including floating villages, hidden beach coves, caves and lakes. Dinner banquet prepared on board. Overnight in private cabin.
April 18, Hanoi
Morning tour of this charming capital city, visiting the tranquil stilt house residence of Ho Chi Minh and his Mausoleum, Quan Thanh temple, Hanoi Hilton Prison site (Hoa Lo), and the Temple of Literature.
Luncheon with special guest Ms. Suzanne Lecht, art consultant who has lived in Hanoi since 1992 and manages the Vietnam Art Gallery in Hanoi featuring the most comprehensive collection of works from artists throughout Vietnam.
Evening cocktail party at the home of internationally-renowned artists Mai Hien and Anh Khanh and hosted by artist and PBS journalist Nguyen Qui Duc, who has retired to Hanoi after 20 years in San Francisco. Duc has intimate knowledge of the arts community in his native country and is fascinating lecturer on culture.
Dinner at Wild Rice, featuring traditional Vietnamese cuisine and contemporary fusion. Accommodation at the Metropole.
April 19, Hanoi
In the morning, transfer outside of Hanoi to explore typical villages of Northern Vietnam including the Noodle Village, the childhood home of our culinary escort, Diep Le To, where we will meet the residents and see the delicious noodles being made for the famous traditional soup, Pho. visiting a popular Noble family whose house is still well preserved followed by a short visit to the home of Mr Loi, the village herbalist. After lunch, we visit Cay Son Gallery to learn the unique Vietnamese styles of lacquer and silk painting as well as descriptions of techniques used. Stop to visit the Vietnam Art Gallery featuring the most comprehensive collection of works from artists throughout Vietnam.
April 20, Hanoi to Hue
Morning tour of Vietnam National Museum of Fine Arts conducted by Nguyen Qui Duc. A highlight of our trip, the pleasant colonial-era museum features impressive work of the 20th century, including unique Vietnamese styles of lacquer and silk painting as well as descriptions of techniques used.
Afterwards, lunch at Café des Arts de Hanoi, a popular expatriate cafe with changing exhibits of paintings by local artists. Afterwards, transfer to airport for a one-hour flight to Hue, the ancient Imperial Capital and arguably Vietnam's most pleasant city set on the languid Perfume River. Afternoon tour of the waterfront by traditional pedicab (cyclo).
Dinner at the tranquil private home/restaurant, Y Thao, featuring delicious Hue specialties, including Banh Khoai, a Vietnamese-style crepe.
April 21, Hue
After breakfast, venture into the scenic hills around Hue for exploration of two of the finest examples of 18th century Imperial architecture: the tombs of Tu Duc and Khai Dinh. Return by traditional dragon boat, while our onboard chef prepares Hue delicacies for lunch.
Afterwards, sightseeing along the misty Perfume River and through the high-walled Imperial Citadel, where Vietnam's kings once ruled and a familiar sight from television images during the Tet Offensive in 1968. We will also visit to the Thien Mu Pagoda, Vietnam's most important Buddhist site overlooking the river. Enjoy traditional live music while having dinner at Tropical Garden Restaurant.
April 22, Hue to Hoi An
After breakfast, we depart for Hoi An pausing to take in picturesque beach views at Lang Co Lagoon and the spectacular coastline panorama of the Hai Van Pass. We will also visit the Cham Museum, with a private tour of the world’s finest collection of Cham sculpture that dates from the 2nd to the 15th century.
Much of the country was destroyed during wars, but Hoi An survived intact, even through the traumatic 1960s and 1970s. Hoi An has a flourishing custom tailoring trade and the artist community has successfully established itself in the last few years. Afternoon exploring this charming arts and crafts town and its mix of Japanese, Chinese and Vietnamese architecture.
Accommodation at the Life Resort, a spa hotel with a pool, massage and beauty treatments. You can also learn about Chinese medicine and have a tai chi session! Dinner at hotel overlooking the Thu Bon River.
April 23, Hoi An
Afternoon free for relaxing. Go beach combing at Cua Dai beach, take a boat cruise, and pickup your custom tailored made clothing or footwear, ordered the day before! In the evening, we have a cooking demonstration and dinner at the Cargo Club Restaurant overlooking the Thu Bon River.
April 24, Hoi An to Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon)
Following breakfast, early morning drive to Danang for our one-hour flight to Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon). After arrival in Ho Chi Minh City, we will transfer to our hotel, the new Park Hyatt, in the center of the bustling city.
After lunch and coffee tasting, we will visit historic landmarks including the Art Deco colonial-era post office, Notre Dame Cathedral, the former Presidential Palace, and the spellbinding War Remnants Museum (formerly the War Crimes Museum). Dinner at Nam Kha — Saigon's finest Vietnamese restaurant.
April 25, Ho Chi Minh City
Morning visit to Cholon — Saigon's Chinatown — including busy marketplace and Quan Am Pagoda. Lunch at Quan An Ngon, an outdoor restaurant featuring food stalls with live cooking.
After a brief visit to Ben Thanh Market, afternoon spent exploring artist studios and galleries including Mr. Son's Tu Do Gallery, the first private contemporary art gallery in Vietnam. Dinner at the Temple Club, where almost all the furniture, antique and reproduction, is for sale.
April 26 , Ho Chi Minh City and the Mekong Delta
Morning drive to the Mekong Delta — the "rice basket" of Vietnam — to witness its thriving agrarian economy, river culture, and spicy cuisine.
Upon arrival in Cai Be, board a motorized boat to visit a local family and nearby floating market. Continue by boat towards An Binh Island through small shade-lined canals, stepping ashore to visit an orchard farm. Learn about cultivation and nursery of longan trees while enjoying a lunch served with the local specialties and exotic delta-grown fruits. After lunch, we will visit a pottery factory and candy making cooperative. Afternoon return to Ho Chi Minh City. Dinner free, with our providing a list to explore the wide range of culinary offerings.
April 27 , Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon)
Depart Ho Chi Minh City for USA or Siem Reap for the tour of the temples of Angkor, or travel to Hong Kong or Bangkok.
A N G K O R E X T E N S I O N
Transfer to the airport for departure flight or continue on Temples of Angkor optional extension tour.
One-hour flight from Saigon to Siem Reap, launching off point for Angkor. Check-in to Raffles Grand Hotel d'Angkor. Join our guide, the Under-secretary of State for The Ministry of Tourism of Cambodia, Dr. Sar Promnea and begin our tour exploring the spectacular Angkor Wat. Conclude the day with a panoramic view of the area and dramatic sunset from the summit Phnom Bakheng. Dinner banquet at the Raffles.
April 28, Angkor
Morning sightseeing includes the intricately-carved thousand-year-old Banteay Srei, the birth place of Khmer classical style architecture. Afterward, explore the mystical Ta Prohm where its original structure has been preserved by archeologists as an example of what the entire Angkor complex may have looked like when it was first discovered.
Continued exploration of the south gate of Angkor Thom and the enigmatic Bayon (left). Visit other temples in the area including Ta Keo, Chau Say Tevoda, Thammanon, Banteay Kdei, and Srah Srang.
Afternoon stop at the Enfants D'asie Aspeca — a unique orphanage supported by a French organization Enfants d'Asie, where orphans from far-remote areas are trained the Khmer music and dance to preserve the traditional art. Afterwards, return to hotel to relax before dinner.
After breakfast, transfer to the airport for departure flight to Saigon for overnight.
Note: You may extend your time in Saigon, Siem Reap, and/or Hong Kong and we can assist with recommendations and arrangements. Please contact us for more information.
1. Airfare. Please call us for group airfare information. If you are arranging your own airline, we recommend you do this as soon as possible, airline seating is difficult to find for this period. Please note airport transfers only apply to our designated group flight.
2. Deposits. Space is limited. We expect this tour to fill quickly. Reservations are on a first come basis. A non-refundable $500 deposit is required to hold your space (we can assist you with trip cancellation insurance). Upon receipt of your deposit, a pre-tour packet will be mailed to you which includes guidebook, maps, phrase book, cultural primer, health and medical, visa, and other information.
3. To ensure your comfort, we have selected the best hotels Vietnam and Cambodia have to offer, including the Sofitel Metropole in Hanoi and Royal in Siem Reap.
LANDCOST: Inclusions (Landcost is based on double occupancy, Single Supplement applies): SOS International medical and air evacuation insurance, best hotel accommodations with breakfast, all meals with the exception of one lunch in Hoi An two dinners free (in Saigon and Hanoi), bottled water during transport, private airport transfers for designated flights, private air-conditioned van transfers during tour, sightseeing with English speaking guides, exclusive meetings, visits, and intimate encounters with artists, specialists, and dignitaries, admission fees per itinerary, private boat cruises, water puppets theater, domestic airfare Hanoi to Hue, and Danang to HCM City, and surprise gifts!
Payments policy and schedule: Tour deposit is due to secure a space and is non-refundable. Remaining balance is due 60 days before departure. Details on cancellation and other insurance information can be found here. Airline ticket policy is dependent on airline, please call for details. An extensive pre-tour packet is included in your tour fee which contains daily itinerary, maps, guidebooks, cultural primer, health and insurance information, visa forms, and much more. Aside from some dinners and souvenir shopping, your expenses will be minimal.
AIRLINES: Our tour flight will be with Cathay Pacific, with departures from Los Angeles, New York, San Francisco and Vancouver (add-on segment from your destination airport will be made through a local carrier, such as United). More information about airlines can be found here: Vietnam Airline Travel Information. If you want to use your miles, Cathay is a member of One World Alliance which includes American Airlines.
HOTELS: Hotels are finest luxury hotels, such as Hanoi's Sofitel Metropole, chosen for character, location and/or amenities. Please view our hotel list for this trip.
HEALTH & MEDICAL: All travelers are automatically covered for emergency in-country medical treatment and air evacuation though AEA/SOS International (www.internationalsos.com). Immunization schedule, medical insurance and other information will be included in your pre-tour packet.
SAFETY: We cannot emphasize enough that Vietnam is very safe place and records over the past decade reveal Vietnam is one of the safest countries in the world for travelers. Aside from camera snatching and pickpockets working the central Saigon district, crimes of any nature against travelers is uncommon.
COMMUNITY: Participants will be asked to bring school supplies, such as pens, to donate to local schools along the way.
NOTE: It is a rare occurrence, but some modifications to the itinerary may be made for reasons beyond our control (such as weather or airline delay) without obligation for refund.
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