Anyone who has visited Vietnam will claim it one the favorite places they've ever traveled to. The landscapes, cuisine, and richness of historic sights are wonderful, but it is the Vietnamese themselves that make Vietnam such as thrilling and delightful destination. As The first American tour company to set up in Vietnam, organizing adventures trips in 1993, we have definite opinions of where to go and what to do, with your preferences in mind of course. While we'll plan your to visit must-see sights, we'll organize a primarily experiential trip devoted to wonderful people-to-people encounters throughout the country.
What's new? Actually, not so new but always better are our popular family trips which include such delightful activities as teachiing an impromptu English class in Hanoi, cycling in Hue, and learning hands-on to create lacquer paintings from one of Vietnam's most renowned artists.
Browse below for only a handful Vietnam tour ideas, where to go, along with unique tour ideas not often considered, any of which can be tailored to your preferences.
Vietnam is no longer a challenging place to travel with kids, and our Vietnam family tours that were pioneered in the early 90's mean with our long experience, local knowledge, meticulous planning, and in-country offices, your trip will not only be a smooth one, but educational, thrilling, and delightful one.
We've escorted kids of all ages on our Vietnam family tours, organizing biking, kayaking, light trekking, camping out in hilltribe villages, with unique activities such as performing with the Hanoi traiditional opera troupe, learning traditional water puppets theater from a master, and private artist encounters where your children will learn hands-on how to produce lacquer paintings in the ancient style. Our staff, and in fact you'll discover almost all Vietnamese are, "kid crazy" and your children will enjoy one of the most remarkable family trips they've ever had.
If you've traveled with Abercrombie & Kent or Butterfield & Robinson before, consider us for our geographic focus and location in Vietnam along with our unmatched experience in the country. Contact us for detailed information about a private Vietnam family adventure in Vietnam. We are honored to be an in-country partners for premier family travel companies My Little Swans and Ciao Bambino.
Our family tours will spice up your travel in the region but nowhere is more fascinating than Vietnam. We've escorted kids of all ages since 1994, organizing biking, kayaking, light trekking, camping out in hilltribe villages, with unique activities such as hands-on rice planting or learning hands-on how to create traditional lacquer guided by a leading artist. Our staff, in fact you'll discover almost all Vietnamese, are "kid crazy" and your children will enjoy one of the most remarkable trips they've ever had. Contact us for detailed information on your family's adventure in Vietnam.
"We had a fabulous trip. Thank you so much!"
—Nancy Solomon, Mother to 4 & Travel Writer for CiaoBambino.com
"We went on the Vietnam Trip last year with our two boys age 8 and 11. What a great trip! We were stunned by the fantastic Vietnamese people, the wonderful views, the terrific food and the stellar way that VeloAsia assembled our trip. This was truly one of our best family vacations."
—Karen and Rich Goss
Take in a bit of history just outside Saigon, where you can visit the intriguing Cu Chi Tunnels where South Vietnamese fighters lived in these underground tunnels for years during the Vietnam War, and even had doctors and stores set up under the ground. This is a sobering and educational reminder of the dangers and hardships of war. We'll also expose you to living history, meeting with fighter pilot Mr. Hong My in his Hanoi Old Quarter home to hear of his dogfights above Hanoi during the war.
For a more light-hearted trip, we'll head to the mountains in Sapa in the far north of the country. Here you can trek through emerald-green rice terraces and meet friendly local groups who still retain their unique culture and traditional ways.
If your family enjoys active travel, will love kayaking through the stunning karst landscapes of Halong Bay. Just two and a half hours outside of Hanoi is one of the world's most incredible geological settings. Here, you can paddle past towering limestone karst formations and traditional Vietnamese wooden boats. The waters are very calm here, and a pleasant for boating and kayaking with children of all ages and ability.
Read About Mario's Iron Chef Biking Trip in Vietnam.
For Mario's 12th birthday, dad took him along on our two-week Vietnam Iron Chef trip, biking and learning hands-on about Vietnam's delicious cuisine from north to south, including cooking classes and fascinating visit the pre-dawn fish market in Nha Trang while enjoying the countryside from the vantage point of a bicycle saddle.
Best memory: " The food is awesome, my favorite!"
Duncans Vietnam Family Tour DiaryDuncan's Vietnam Diary
Read about Duncan's surprise 12th birthday Vietnam family tour during December, 2011 with his father and grandmother traveling to Hanoi through the central coast, meeting with families, local artists, exploring small villages, visiting schools, enjoying Vietnam's culinary treats along the way, not to mention an exciting white-knuckle bicycle ride in Hue across the Perfume River!
[Read more about Duncan's Vietnam Family Tour]
Vietnamese Traditonal Opera
In the Old Quarter the Hanoi Traditional Opera Troupe presents weekly shows. Enjoy a private meeting with the troupe, learning and playing traditional instruments, then being made up and costumed to act in a wonderful family production directed by the troupe’s producer and actors. Doan Thi Diem Middle School Students in HanoiIf you're traveling with children, we can organize meeting local students as ambassadors, acting as tour guides to take your family to see some of their classes such as dancing and art, while giving your children a chance to teach in an English class with students excited to learn more abut Western lifestyles but rarely meet foreign children.
We can also introduce your family to the student's, meeting their parents for an informal tea or lunch. Soccer is the sport in Vietnam and if your children like, we can arrange for them to attend a game with the students or play with the students, or a more cultural experience, traveling outside of Hanoi into the farm and river areas, sharing time fishing and meeting farmers with your new friends. Read more on Doan Thi Diem school.
Traditional Water Puppets
During this delightful activity, visit a water puppet master in his private theater, learning hands-on how this wonderful traditional performance art, unique to Vietnam, is performed. Later this evening, we can also go see an actual water puppets show after this behind the scenes glimpse of how the plays are created. Read more about Water Puppets
Have a budding entrepreneur in the family? Your kids know about Flappy Bird? The app was made by a young coder in Saigon. Asia is rising and over the last decade China and Vietnam have had the most dynamic economies in the world. A watershed moment for Vietnam was the 2010 opening of an Intel's billion-dollar plant in Ho Chi Minh City, Intel's largest plant to date. In Hanoi and Saigon, we'll organize meetings with students in their classrooms and young entrepreneurs for your older children to understand firsthand the human element of these growing economies. We specialize in tech startups, but can arrange meetings in almost any industry from manufacturing, agro products (Vietnam is now the world's second largest producer of coffee beans), to design.
Junior Iron Chef
As No Reservation's Anthony Bourdain points out, there's no better place to travel by your stomach than Vietnam, a place inhabited by "a skinny people obsessed with food." And cuisine is a highlight of any family trip in Vietnam. Vietnam offers delightful hands-on adventures in cuisine, from fruit carving and learning to roll spring rolls with your chef on Halong Bay (right).
Or enjoy an "Iron Chef" cook-off between family members in Hoi An, hunting and preparing several favorite Vietnamese dishes such as banh beo, a Vietnamese crepe, for a hard-to-please panel of judges.
Hanoi Artist Encounter
Hanoi currently enjoys one of the most vigorous emerging art scenes in the world and we can arrange private meetings with many of the country's top artists, engaging in interesting activities for children such as a hands-on learning about how traditional lacquer is made working on actual pieces of artists.
Bomb Shelter Tour
A fascinating multimedia space in the recently-discovered war-era bomb shelter. The educational experience teaches with signage, sound, and is led by a local historian. There were historic accounts of a Vietnam-era bunker designed to protect hotel guests during bombing raids, but nobody recalled where it was located or if it even still existed until recent renovations struck the massive concrete walls of the bunker.
Kayaking in Halong Bay
On a Vietnam family tour, our most popular family destination is Halong Bay. Halong Bay was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1998 and stunning geographic anomoly where thousands of limestone peaks create a natural barrier to the wind-blown waters of the South China Sea. The karst wonderland was a favorite hiding place for pirates (and the James Bond villain in Man with the Golden Gun). These calm waters are wonderfully suited for kayaking and despite the negative things you've read about Halong Bay, we use only a handful of quality luxury charters that cruise away from the crowds into the pristine areas of the bay.
Boating and Cycling the Mighty Mekong Delta
Our Mekong family tour travels some of the quietest back roads in the country, with frequent side trips by the delta's primary mode of transport — sampan (boat). Drift in small sampan through bustling market places and riverfront villages, stopping into homes, cottage industries, and crafts villages, along the way. Cycling through the bustling markets is always a highlight.
Halong Bay is an astounding UNESCO World Heritage Site with hundreds of picturesque limestone peaks—the calm waters wonderfully suited for kayaking close up to the limestone formations that offer fantasy water landscapes of exploration. Large caves that served as hidden bunkers for pirates, revolutionaries, and bandits we will now explore on foot and kayak or simply laze on deck watching the mesmerizing scenery drift by.
With over 2,000 karst peaks tame the South China Sea, settling it into a glassy smooth surface — perfect for beginning kayakers, swimming, and of course those who are sensitive to motion.
During the trip we dine and overnight on a clean, comfortable replica of a traditional wooden cruiser, the finest boat on Halong Bay — the Huong Hai. Private cabins have lavatories and twin beds. Spacious areas above deck and inside provide solitude when needed.
Fresh meals prepared by your onboard chef — catch of the day, seafood specialties, and Vietnamese favorites, such as banh xeo and pho. For breakfast, hearty plate-size omelettes, piping hot soups, baguettes, jam, butter, and "depth charge" coffee.
Charming twin and double cabins feature private lavatories and showers, air conditioning, comfortable beds, and attractive woodwork throughout. We lease boats only of the highest quality, please view our current Halong Bay charters.
Cooking with your chef, learning the art of fruit and vegetable carving, kayaking, caving, island hiking, visiting floating villages, exploring deserted beach coves, swimming and snorkeling round out the many activities on the bay.
Halong Bay is the geographic highlight of Southeast Asia, inspiration for generations of artists and a focus of our annual photography tour.
Family & Honeymoon
Our specialty: our most popular trips are family and honeymoon trips on the bay. Our staff is famously fun with children of all ages and for the perfect honeymoon, a private cruise on the bay is an unforgettable experience of a lifetime.
If you want an idea of how beautiful Halong Bay is, watch the French film Indochine. Now imagine cruising or kayaking these same placid, emerald waters through caves into hidden lakes and white-sand beach coves, your small kayak gliding beneath towering limestone peaks...
There is no other place like this in the world, a cruising experience on par with the Blue Voyage along Turkey's coast. Indeed, the romantic setting of rugged island peaks and bays dotted with sailing junks has inspired a whole genre of Vietnamese painting.
Our private cruises of two to four days in length are of the highest quality yet as affordable as many package tours. Our three-day tour is the perfect compliment to a visit to North Vietnam — a short three-hour drive from Hanoi. Meals and long-distance transport are on our "mother ships" — spacious wooden cruisers equipped with comfortable suites, deck and dining rooms. Meals designed by culinary specialist, Diep To, are abundant and delicious highlighting local seafood cooked up fresh. Vegetarians can be accommodated.
Halong Bay Three-day Itinerary
Day 1: Hanoi to Halong Bay via private car. Board your private junk, enjoying lunch as we motor out onto the bay, pausing to sightsee in Hang Dau Go (Hiding the Timber Cave), the largest grotto in the Halong area. In the afternoon, we'll escape the flotilla of other tourist boats, escaping into our own private part of the bay for kayaking and a beautiful sunset over Halong. After, a delicious seafood dinner, followed by drinks under the stars.
Day 2: Full-day on the bay, exploring grottoes, coves, inland lagoons, floating villages, and beach coves. Seafood lunch, dinner and overnight onboard.
Day 3: Halong Bay. Half-day kayaking on the bay followed by farewell lunch with crew before return to Hanoi by private car.
Tariff: Our private luxury Halong Bay cruises start at US$1,280 (inclusive of private boat and round trip transfer from Hanoi in private car).
Kayaking is optional, but enables up close access, through karst into hidden lagoons where no boat can go. We use imported one and two-seat models are perfect for beginners and for more experienced kayakers.
No visit to Myanmar is complete without pausing, even briefly, in Yangon, Mandalay, and of course the vast reddened plain of Bagan dotted with hundreds of striking ruins. But also consider exploring sublime Inle Lake, a remote Shangri-La high in the picturesque Shan State and a favorite place of past travelers.
Although most travelers visit these places, we'll ensure your time is spent adequately canvasing these highlights but also experiencing most enjoyable aspect of travel in Myanmar — immersion into the myriad of fascinating cultures and picturesque landscapes that leaves most of our travelers to claim Myanmar as their all-time favorite place. Browse some of our recommended itineraries below, then contact us to plan your entirely unique and original custom tour.
Yangon - Bagan - Mandalay
The capitol city of Yangon, the culture and ancient royal capitals of Mandalay, and the archaeological wonders of Bagan in a well paced tour
Day 1 | Yangon arrival (based on morning flight)
Transfer to the hotel and begin sightseeing of colorful downtown Yangon, including Chaukhtatkyi, a colossal reclining Buddha; a scenic photo stop on beautiful Kandawgyi lake and the Shwedagon Pagoda, one of the world's most impressive golden stupas. Overnight Yangon
Day 2 | Yangon - Bagan (flight)
Morning flight to Bagan. Highlights of our visit include many of Bagan's distinctive pagodas and a local village. At sunset enjoy a panoramic view of the pagodas.
Day 3 | Bagan
At dusk, ascend by balloon over the plain for a stunning view of the temples below. After descending, continued sightseeing of Bagan's primary and secondary pagodas and temples, also visiting the local Bagan market and seeing Bagan's famous lacquerware being handcrafted.
Day 4 | Bagan - Mandalay (flight), Amarapura & Inwa sightseeing
Visit the former royal capital of Amarapura highlighted by a visit to U Bein bridge, the world's longest teakwood structure. Then visit Inwa, another former royal capital, and travel by pony cart down tree lined paths to see old palace walls, wooden monasteries, and the 'leaning tower of Ava'.
Day 5 | Mandalay sightseeing, Mandalay - Yangon (flight)
Sightseeing in Mandalay city, including the revered Mahamuni pagoda. Afternoon transfer to Mandalay airport for flight to Yangon. Overnight Yangon
Day 6 | Yangon
Last-minute sightseeing or at leisure until departure transfer.
Ready to plan your trip to Myanmar? Fill out a short contact form by clicking below or calling us in San Francisco at (415) 680-3788.
Day 1 | Yangon arrival & sightseeing
Arrival transfer and begin sightseeing, including colorful downtown Yangon, Chaukhtatkyi, a colossal reclining Buddha; a scenic photo stop on beautiful Kandawgyi Lake and the awe inspiring Shwedagon Pagoda. Overnight Yangon.
Day 2 | Yangon - Mandalay - Amarapura & Inwa
Morning arrival in Mandalay and sightseeing visit to the former royal capital of Amarapura, and see U Bein's Bridge, the world's longest teakwood structure. Then visit Inwa, another former royal capital, and travel by pony cart down tree-lined paths to see old palace walls, wooden monasteries, and the 'leaning tower of Ava'. Overnight Mandalay
Day 3 | Mandalay
City sightseeing includes gold leaf hammering, Mahamuni pagoda, Shwenandaw Monastery, noted for its exquisite wood carvings; and Kuthodaw Pagoda, renowned as the world's largest book for its stone slabs of the entire Buddhist scriptures. End the day with a sunset view from Mandalay Hill. Overnight Mandalay.
Day 4 | Mandalay - Bagan (Cruise)
Early morning departure (600) from Mandalay to Bagan by modern ferryboat service. A pleasant way to spend the day as you travel down the fabled Ayerwaddy River. Arrive in Bagan by late afternoon, in time for evening sightseeing.
Day 5 | Bagan sightseeing
In the morning continue sightseeing of one of Asia's premier archaeological sites. Highlights of our visit include many of Bagan's distinctive pagodas and the colorful local market as well.
Day 6 | Bagan - Heho (flight), Inle Lake
Fly to Heho and transfer to a hotel at Inle Lake. Begin sightseeing by long tailed boat of this magical and unique area . Highlights include the boatmen with their 'one-legged' rowing style, the floating gardens, the 'jumping cats' monastery and more.
Day 7 | Inle Lake
Continue Inle Lake sightseeing today with a memorable visit to Indein village with its idyllic 16th century pagodas. We can also visit a local silk weaving 'factory' which sits on stilts on the lake.
Day 8 | Heho - Yangon (flight)
Fly to Yangon and afternoon visit to Botahtaung pagoda on the Yangon river. For a last shopping spree go to the sprawling 79 year old Bogyoke (Scott) Market, filled with a large collection of local handicrafts and other items. Overnight Yangon.
Day 9 | Yangon
At leisure until departure transfer.
Ngapali Beach Extension
Situated on the clear blue water of the Bay of Bengal, Ngapali Beach is a deserted idyllic, palm-fringed shore much like neighboring Thailand's beaches were decades ago... A handful of local resorts are in the area, with a new Hilton opening its doors in 2015.
Aside from lazing on the beach and by the pool, Ngapali attractions include Pearl Island, Nghet Pyaw Chaung Lake, Jatetaw fishing village, the black-sand island Zalat Htone, local craftsmen working on pottery and weaving, Thandwe market, and three shimmering stupas on nearby hilltops of the Nan Daw, Ann Daw and San Daw Pagodas. Activities include boat cruises, cycling, snorkeling, kayaking, golf, and hiking up Amata Mountain or panoramic views from the top.
Ready to plan your trip to Myanmar? Fill out a short contact form by clicking below or calling us in San Francisco at (415) 680-3788Begin Your Journey
Yangon - Bagan - Mt. Popa - Salay - Mandalay - Pindaya - Inle Lake
A classic tour with all the main destinations plus Mt Popa, the fascinating caves of Pindaya, and the monasteries of off-the-beaten-path town of Salay
Day 1 | Yangon arrival (based on morning flight).
Transfer to the hotel and sightseeing including colorful downtown Yangon, Chaukhtatkyi pagoda, a colossal reclining Buddha; a scenic photo stop on beautiful Kandawgyi Lake and the Shwedagon Pagoda, one of the world's most impressive golden stupas. Overnight Yangon
Day 2 | Yangon - Bagan (flight)
Morning flight to Bagan. Highlights of our visit include many of Bagan's distinctive pagodas. At sunset enjoy a marvelous panoramic view of the pagodas.
Day 3 | Bagan, Salay & Mt. Popa excursion
Morning private boat ride downriver to Salay, a small quiet town with interesting monasteries and pagodas. Then drive to nearby Mt. Popa, an extinct volcano renowned as the home of the 'nats' (or spirits). Return to Bagan in the afternoon stopping to see a local toddy palm farm on the way.
Day 4 | Bagan-Mandalay (flight), Amarapura & Inwa
Visit the former royal capital of Amarapura highlighted by U Bein's Bridge, the world's longest teakwood bridge. Then visit Inwa, another former royal capital and travel by pony cart down tree-lined paths to see old palace walls, wooden monasteries and the 'leaning tower of Ava'. Overnight Mandalay
Day 5 | Mandalay city sightseeing and Mingun
In the morning travel by private riverboat upriver to the massive ruins of the Mingun pagoda and see the huge Mingun Bell. Sightseeing in Mandalay includes Mahamuni Pagoda, gold leaf hammering, Shwe Inbin Monastery, and Shwenandaw Monastery, noted for its exquisite wood carvings. Overnight Mandalay
Day 6 | Mandalay - Heho/Pindaya
Fly to the Shan state and drive to Pindaya. Visit the fascinating Pindaya caves with their more than 8,000 Buddha images and a Shan umbrella making cottage industry. Overnight Pindaya
Day 7 | Pindaya - Inle Lake
Morning drive to beautiful Inle Lake and sightseeing highlights include the boatmen with their 'one-legged' rowing style, the floating gardens, the 'jumping cats' monastery and more.
Day 8 | Inle Lake
Continue Inle Lake sightseeing today with a memorable visit to Indein village with its idyllic 16th century pagodas. We can also visit a local silk weaving 'factory' which sits on stilts on the lake.
Day 9 | Heho - Yangon (flight), Yangon sightseeing
Fly to Yangon and afternoon sightseeing including Botahtaung Pagoda and the rustic 80 year-old Scott market with its large collection of local handicrafts and other items. Overnight Yangon
Day 10 | Yangon
At leisure until departure transfer.
Ready to plan your trip to Myanmar? Fill out a short contact form by clicking below or calling us in San Francisco at (415) 680-3788Begin Your Journey
Yangon - Inle Lake - Pindaya - Mandalay - Maymyo- Bagan - Pandaw Cruise
All the major destinations and featuring a cruise on the fabled Ayerwaddy River on board the elegant colonial steamer replica RV Pandaw
Day 1 | Yangon arrival (based on morning flight)
Transfer to the hotel and begin our sightseeing including colorful downtown Yangon, Chaukhtatkyi, a colossal reclining Buddha; a scenic photo stop on beautiful Kandawgyi Lake and the Shwedagon Pagoda, arguably the world's most impressive golden stupa. Overnight Yangon
YDay 2 | Yangon - Heho (flight), Inle LakeY
Transfer to Inle Lake and begin sightseeing of this magical lake by private boat. Highlights include the boatmen with their unique 'one-legged' rowing style, the floating gardens, the 'jumping cats' monastery and more.
Day 3 | Inle Lake
Continue Inle Lake sightseeing today with a memorable visit to Indein village with its idyllic 16th century pagodas. We can also visit a local silk weaving 'factory' which sits on stilts on the lake. Afternoon drive to Pindaya. Overnight Pindaya
Day 4 | Pindaya, Heho - Mandalay (flight)
Morning visit to Pindaya caves, which contain more than 8,000 Buddha images. Sightseeing at the caves and then drive to Heho airport for afternoon flight to Mandalay. Overnight Mandalay
Day 5 | Mingun excursion & Mandalay sightseeing
Morning transfer to Mandalay jetty for a short and pleasant ride upriver to the massive ruins of the unfinished Mingun pagoda. Nearby we can also visit the Mingun Bell and Mingun village. Return to Mandalay and sightseeing includes Mahamuni Pagoda, gold leaf hammering, Shwe Inbin Monastery, and Shwenandaw Monastery, noted for its exquisite wood carvings. Overnight Mandalay
Day 6 | Amarapura & Inwa
Plowing rice field at Inle LakeSightseeing today includes visits to the former royal capitals of Amarapura and Inwa. At Amarapura visit U Bein's bridge, the world's longest teakwood bridge and then at Inwa travel by pony cart down tree lined paths to visit old palace walls, wooden monasteries and the 'leaning tower of Ava'. Overnight Mandalay
Day 7 | Mandalay - Maymyo (car)
Afternoon drive to the former British Hill Station of Maymyo and enjoy the cool temperatures and scenery. Sightseeing includes elegant old colonial houses, and the beautiful 237 acre botanical garden. There are many horse drawn carriages to enliven the scenery. Overnight Maymyo.
Day 8 | Mandalay - Bagan
Embark the colonial style 1947 Pandaw river boat and morning departure for Bagan. Overnight Pandaw ship.
Ready to plan your trip to Myanmar? Fill out a short contact form by clicking below or calling us in San Francisco at (415) 680-3788Begin Your Journey
Yangon - Kyiaktiyo - Pindaya - Inle Lake Mandalay - Monywa - Bagan - Mt. PopaAn all around tour that takes you from the Golden Rock at Kyaiktiyo in the south to the caves of Po Win Taung near Monywa. A boat trip down the legendary Ayerwaddy River is also part of this extended tour
Day 1 | Arrive Yangon
Transfer to the hotel and begin sightseeing including colorful downtown Yangon, Chaukhtatkyi, a colossal reclining Buddha; a scenic photo stop on beautiful Kandawgyi Lake and the Shwedagon Pagoda, arguably the world's most impressive golden stupa. Overnight Yangon
Day 2 | Yangon to Kyaikhtiyo
Breakfast at the hotel before an early morning drive to Kyaikhtiyo (about 5 hours), site of the famous 'Golden Rock'. It is a large boulder delicately balanced on the edge of a cliff near the top of a mountain and it is one of the most revered Buddhist shrines. Overnight at Golden Rock.
Day 3 | Kyaikhtiyo to Bago-Yangon
The morning sunrise at Kyaikhtiyo is a memorable sight. After early morning sightseeing descend the mountain and drive back to Yangon. On the way to Yangon, we will visit some interesting pagodas as we pass through Bago, and also some nearby pottery making cottages. Overnight in Yangon.
Day 4 | Yangon-Heho, Pindaya sightseeing
Breakfast at the hotel before transfer to Yangon airport to take the flight to Heho. After arrival proceed to Pindaya, noted for its extensive limestone caves filled with more than 8,000 Buddha images. See the interesting process of Shan umbrella making at a family run umbrella business. Overnight at Pindaya
Day 5 | Pindaya-Inle, Inle sightseeing
Morning drive to magical Inle Lake, located about 1000 meters above sea level. Highlights include the fisherman rowing in their unique one-legged style and the floating gardens of grass and earth used for growing vegetables. Another attraction is a visit to the 'jumping cats' monastery, the Phaungdaw U Pagoda and the silk weaving looms
Day 6 | Excursion to Sangha & Thakong Pagoda
After breakfast, travel by boat south for a journey to reach Sangha and Thakong at the far end of Inle Lake. This relaxing boat journey (about 3 hours one way) enables us to get off the beaten path and see unspoiled culture and the traditional life-styles of the ethnic groups living in the area. On our trip we will see beautiful landscapes, flowering trees and settlements dotting both sides of the canal.
Day 7 | Heho - Mandalay, Mandalay sightseeing
Breakfast at the hotel before transfer to Heho airport to take the flight to Mandalay. Sightseeing in Mandalay includes Mahamuni Pagoda, gold leaf hammering, Shwe Inbin Monastery, and Shwenandaw Monastery, noted for its exquisite wood carvings. Overnight Mandalay
Day 8 | Excursion to Mingun & Mandalay sightseeing
Transfer to Mandalay jetty where we take a short and pleasant ride upriver to visit the massive ruins of Mingun, the site of what would have been the world's largest zedi had not King Bodawpaya died in 1819 thus halting all further work. Nearby we can also visit the Mingun Bell. Return to Mandalay and visit Kuthodaw Pagoda and then Mandalay Hill for sunset viewing. Overnight Mandalay.
Day 9 | Excursion to Inwa & Sagaing, Monywa
Sightseeing today includes a visit to Inwa, which was founded in 1364 and lasted nearly 400 years as a royal capital, and to Sagaing, another former capital of the Shan kingdom. Then drive to Monywa, 135 km northwest of Mandalay and situated on the Chindwin River. En route visit colorful Thanboddhay Pagoda. Overnight Monywa
Day 10 | Monywa sightseeing, river boat to Bagan
Excursion across the Chindwin River to visit the fascinating Po Win Daung Caves and Shwe Ba Daung. Then take an afternoon cruise by boat down the river to Bagan. Late afternoon Bagan arrival and transfer to the hotel.
Day 11 | Excursion to Mt. Popa
Morning drive, or bicycling, to Mt. Popa which rose from the ground in a massive earthquake in 442 BC. Mt. Popa is famous as the abode of the Nats (Spirit Gods) and for its panoramic view of the local tropical region. On the way to Mt. Popa we visit a local farmer and see how toddy palm juice and sugar are produced.
Day 12 | Bagan
Today enjoy Bagan sightseeing. Highlights include visits to Nyaung Oo Market; and many of Bagan's distinctive pagodas. In the afternoon visit a lacquerware workshop and Dhammayangyi Pahto, a massive later period temple with the finest brickwork in Bagan. As the sun goes down we will be at one of the ideal viewing sites selected by our tour guide.
Day 13 | Bagan - Yangon, Yangon - Pyay
Breakfast at the hotel before transfer to Bagan airport to take the flight to Yangon. Arrive in Yangon and drive to Pyay (Prome), about 5 hours, located on the bank of Ayerwaddy River. Overnight Pyay.
Day 14 | Pyay
Drive across the Ayerwaddy River to Htonbo village (about 2 hours drive) and take a short boat ride down the river to bring us to this unique mountain. On its cliff face are carved hundreds of Buddha images. Optional short but steep hike up to reach the top. Sightseeing highlights of Pyay include Shwesandaw pagoda. Overnight Pyay.
Day 15 | Pyay - Yangon
After breakfast drive back to Yangon, arriving late afternoon. Overnight Yangon
Day 16 | Yangon Departure
At leisure until departure transfer.
Yangon - Bagan - Mandalay
A Myanmar tour to combine with a Thailand trip. This Myanmar program starts with the border crossing at Tachilek
Day 1 | Tachilek border crossing, and flight to Heho
Cross from Thailand into Myanmar at the town of Tachilek and after immigration processing transfer to airport for flight to Heho. Arrive at Heho, transfer to Inle Lake and check in to the hotel.
Day 2 | Inle Lake
Transfer to a hotel at Inle Lake and begin sightseeing by long tailed boat of this magical and unique area. Highlights include the boatmen with their 'one-legged' rowing style, the floating gardens, and a memorable visit to Indein village with its idyllic 16th century pagodas. We can also visit a local silk weaving 'factory' which sits on stilts on the lake.
Day 3 | Inle Lake, Heho - Mandalay
Morning sightseeing on the lake and afternoon transfer to Heho airport for flight to Mandalay. Transfer to hotel. Overnight Mandalay
Day 4 | Mandalay
In the morning travel upriver by private boat to the massive ruins of the Mingun pagoda. Also visit Mingun village and the Mingun Bell, the largest hanging uncracked bell in the world. Return to Mandalay and sightseeing includes Mahamuni Pagoda, gold leaf hammering, and Shwenandaw Monastery, noted for its exquisite wood carvings. Overnight Mandalay
Day 5 | Mandalay - Bagan
Take a ride on the local ferry (private reserved seats) and enjoy a leisurely day traveling down the legendary Ayerwaddy River. Arrive in Bagan in time for evening sightseeing and enjoy the sunset view from one of the pagodas.
Day 6 | Bagan
After breakfast continue sightseeing of one of Asia's premier archaeological sites. Highlights of our visit include Bagan's distinctive pagodas, the colorful local market, and a visit to a local village.
Day 7 | Bagan - Yangon
Fly to Yangon by morning flight and Yangon sightseeing including Botahtaung Pagoda and the sprawling 79 year old Scott market with its large collection of local handicrafts and other items. Overnight Yangon
Day 8 | Yangon
At leisure until departure transfer
Tour Extensions and Add- on ideas to spice up your program.
Mogoke—about a seven-hour drive north of Mandalay, Mogoke is famous for its beautiful rubies and sapphires which are mined there. Located at 1,170 meters in picturesque natural surroundings.
Kyiaktiyo (Golden Rock)—see above
Pyay (Prome) - Five hours drive northwest of Yangon and located on the Ayerwaddy River, Pyay was established as a trade center during the Bagan era. Some of the ancient Pyu civilization flourished here. You can also see nearby Akauk Mt., noteworthy for its hundreds of Buddha images carved in its cliff face.
Mawlaymine - Travel further, due south into the Mon state from Kyiaktiyo and you will reach Mawlaymine, a former capital of British Burma and it is Myanmar's third largest city with a population of 300,000. Rich in decaying colonial architecture and still a large industry of shipping.
Pathein - Myanmar's fourth largest city is located in the south in the Ayerwaddy Delta. This agricultural region grows the best rice in Myanmar. There is a picturesque waterfront area, bustling markets, and the city is noted for its hand painted umbrellas.
Kengtung - (previously mentioned)
Mandalay/Bhamo boat trip - A soft adventure trip is to take the local boat (you can get private cabins) north on the Ayerwaddy river to reach Bhamo, passing through three defiles on the way.
Naga festival - It is possible to arrange a trip to visit the Naga, who live near the Bangladesh border. Former headhunters, a few who only reformed as recently as the 1950's, they wear colorful costumes at festival time, and can still look fierce.
Classic Train Travel - For the serious train enthusiast, train trips, utilizing private coaches and steam engines at times, can be arranged.
Beach Resorts—see above
Excursion to Twante—Liven up your visit to Yangon with a short morning ride down the Yangon River to the local village of Twante where they make much of the pottery used in the Delta and Yangon area. It is about a 3 hour boat ride to Twante which you will share with Myanmar locals - a real Discovery Channel experience.
Bird watching—World class bird watching is available at Moyingyi Wetlands just 70 miles north of Yangon.
Meditation—There is no better country to come to for a serious study of meditation. And even if you are not that serious, you can come and do a combined meditation and leisure tour. Golf tours (previously mentioned)
Historical tours—We can organize tours that highlight places of historical interest, e.g., sites along the river which were key in the wars between the British and the Burmans.
Inle Lake Festival tour—The Paungdaw Oo pagoda festival which takes place at Inle Lake in October (sometimes partly in September depending on the moon cycle) is one of the most colorful and popular festivals with visitors.
Balloons Over Bagan—see above
Honeymoon tour—Honeymooners would likely find anyplace romantic but Myanmar truly does mesmerize, from the incredibly exotic Honeymoon bungalows at Kandawgyi Palace hotel to the beauty of its beaches.
River expeditions—Several opportunities for river cruises exist. The previously mentioned IFC PANDAW, 1947 PANDAW, and the ROAD TO MANDALAY cruise boats both do extended trips at select dates. In addition the DELTA QUEEN boat offers overnight trips between Yangon and Pathein. From Pathein it is an hours drive to Ngwe Saung Beach. The boat is fairly modern and though cabins are small, they are tidy and well kept. With Myanmar's vast river system there is great potential for river cruising.
How do we develop a personal vision? With the advent of digital photography, everyone has become a "photographer" yet there are few who really see and create images that are compelling and dynamic. In this course, we will work with each participant to help them develop his or her unique vision; the workshop will culminate in a collection of images that will be visual gifts to us all.
There are two separate but interrelated processes: the first is being both conscious of what we choose to include in our viewfinder and of course, what we choose to exclude. Secondly, once we have captured an image that speaks to us, what enhancements can we make using the tools of digital photography to either augment or transform the image so it coincides with the intention we had when we chose to click the shutter?
The destinations in Vietnam and Cambodia have been chosen to provide maximum visual possibilities.
In the pre introductory meeting, we will review each participants work, give feedback, and optionally, have each person write a short paragraph or two on what they like about photography, what is their purpose in making images and what are the themes that they want to express in their work. In the meeting after our trip to Vietnam and Cambodia, we will review the images created. Each participant will be asked to pick between 6-10 of their favorite images to be discussed in a friendly critique. We will then work together as a group interpreting selected images through Photoshop.
Mark Tuschman has been a professional photographer with nearly 30 years of experience. His primary commercial work has been for healthcare and pharmaceutical clients and he is known nationally as an excellent photographer of people in their environments. His personal work involves working with non-profit organizations in the field of women's rights, both in reproductive healthcare and in microfinance. He also loves doing landscape photography. For a full range of his work, please visit:
www.tuschmanphoto.com and marktuschman.blogspot.com
Robert Kato has been photographically capturing fine art images for over three decades. His extensive art education has provided him with a strong foundation in the art of seeing as well as visual communication. His photographic journey began soon after he developed his first roll of film and watched his first print "magically" appear in the developer tray. That magic reappeared with the advent of digital photography and Adobe Photoshop. Photoshop helped to satisfy his ambition of becoming a painter and now the mouse has become his brush and the monitor his palette. The photographic paintings were created with an Iris printer. Presently, he works as a fine art digitographer and master printmaker providing post-production assistance to traditional as well as digital photographers. Sharing his expertise, he provides photographers with several aesthetic options for creating a unique photographic expression that can be a departure from the original image. For a full range of his work, please visit:
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Dates: Contact us for 2017 Dates
Cost: US$5,980 per person in shared accommodation
Accommodation: Luxury hotels, including Hanoi's colonial-era Metropole.
Airlines: Contact us for information and quotes on recommended routing and carriers.
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Artists are often the ideal cultural bridge, many fluent in English, having traveled abroad, as well as being observers of their own culture. We're always happy to make introductions with artists in Hanoi, where many of the country's leading artists are based and most we know personally from our long experience, organizing the very first arts tours of Vietnam in the mid-1990s, when artists were only beginning to emerge from a long post-war slumber and poor economy. What a difference a couple of decades makes. Vietnam's artists have claimed the world-stage and the arts scene is Hanoi is one of the most vigorous in Asia. Meet privately with celebrated.
Nguyen Duc, one of the foremost living Vietnamese writers and intellectuals. Formerly a San Francisco-based host of the public radio program Pacific Time, Duc retired to Hanoi in 2007, marking this move back home with the opening of an art gallery and designing of a mountain retreat set in the mountains, which was featured in the New York Times.
Duc’s books include Where the Ashes Are: The Odyssey of a Vietnamese Family and Vietnam: A Traveler's Literary Companion. Duc continues to write and runs a atmospheric café in the Old Quarter which has become a gathering place for young artists and writers, one of many projects that occupy his time in the capital.
Đàn Bau blues in the Old Quarter. One of the most remarkable aspects of the Water Puppets theater is the music and primarily the enchanting sound of the Đàn Bau, a traditional single-stringed instrument (now amplified) that creates a moody, bluesy sound. Let us arrange a visit into the Old Quarter family who
Plays at the Water Puppets Theater, witnessing their daughter play (right) and having a chance to learn how to play the instrument yourself. We recommend this over the Water Puppets show, although younger children will delight in the private Water Puppets experience we can arrange.
VX Art Gallery. Co-managed by our own Diep To, this Dong Da District showroom is the place to see example from all artists we know personally in Hanoi.
Khac Quan was born and grew up near the renowned Bat Trang ceramic village. Khac Quan’s clay works have made a strong impression as well as his ability to control the intricate porcelain making technique as form of sculpture. With Quan people witness his modern style and sophistication interpreted using only simple soil and enamel.
Dinh Quan is one Vietnam's premier artists, working on large lacquer and sculpture. His home gallery, in the heart of the bohemian enclave on the West Lake, is a fascinating visit and he is a gracious host who is fluent in English.
Lionel Descostes, a French artist, has been taking on the Vietnamese embroidery "painting" technique (canvases appear to be in oil but up close are actually thread - sewn art work) and has reinvented it in his own way, moving it out of the realm of traditional craft and semi-artistic production onto the stage of contemporary art.
Tran Hieu is a painter, antique collector and dealer. Out of many antique collectors in the capital, Tran Hieu stands out. Born and raised in a Noble family in Hanoi, he inherited a rich collection of antique dating back up to five generations. Hieu continues to trade and collect from inside as well as outside of Vietnam. The collection includes wood, lacquer Buddhas and exotic statues, ancient ceramic, stone, porcelain, bronze drums from the Dong Son civilization which date back from thousand years ago.
Artist Viet Thanh lived and taught fine art, including painting, sculpture, lacquer, woodblock print in Sweden, but has recently moved back to Hanoi and is living and working from her White Lotus villa near the West Lake bohemian enclave.
Mai Anh is a widely recognized painter whose works have been exhibited in Asia, Australia, Europe, Bermuda and the United States. Solo exhibitions include Santa Barbara, West Hollywood, and Carmel Valley. The paintings of Mai Anh are, according to Ian Findlay-Brown, Editor/Publisher of Asian Art News, "quietly emotional and determined. In her impressionistic/expressionistic oeuvre she goes her own way, mining her memories and her experience and observing the rituals and concerns of women around her."
The works of Van Duong Thanh (above, right) show European influences of Impressionism, Expressionism, and semi abstract. She has combined harmoniously between these and Asian styles. She has had over fifty exhibitions around the world, including France, the U.S., Sweden, Singapore, and Germany with over 1,500 of her works in private reputable collections and art museums.
Water Puppets Theater is a fascinating, traditional performance art unique to Vietnam. We can arrange a private, hands-on performance learning the history of the art, stagecraft, and manipulation of the puppets with Master Puppeteer Mr. Phan Thanh Liem in his Hanoi studio. Children will be delighted and we will arrange water puppets gifts for your children after the performance.
Bui Mai Hien is one of a few groundbreaking Vietnamese painters (including Dinh Quan) who has taken traditional lacquer art and moved it forward into contemporary expression.
Pham Thi Kieu Phuc is a celebrated and innovative interior designer who founded Module 7. Phuc loves the silent, discreet nature of lacquer products and her designs have many origins. Some are inspired by the objects of Vietnamese everyday life; colonial hat, fish trap, buffalo, rock and trees. Others are inspired by Japanese design principles, following the Zen philosophy ‘less is more’. She especially likes bronze handmade products, as she feels that the hammers marks left in the product reveal the artisan’s emotion. "If you buy a designer product, the most interesting thing is the creativity of the person who designed it" Phuc claims. More on Phuc Pham.
Tuong National Theater Troupe. Tuong was established in the 12th century and in the 17th century it was very much in vogue. The Tuong plays consist of songs and dances which are highly stylized, conventional and imbued with symbolism similar to Peking Opera. We can arrange a private visit to the beautiful theater house in the Old Quarter to meet privately with the troupe of actors in person. For families, the troupe will organize a full production with makeup, costumes and acting on the stage, a delightful experience.
Dao Anh Khanh (right) is a surrealist painter and controversial performance artist. He moves easily between painting canvasses, acrylic and lacquer with his very own technique. He may paint himself white and dance for hours in his own highly individual style. As a performance artist, Anh Khanh has performed all over the world including New York, Europe, and throughout Asia. Khanh is an internationally recognized leader among Asian artists who are breaking away from traditional, stylistic, and political constrains.
Musician Pham Chi Khanh is a traditional instrument maker and player who has been applying his passion in traditional music for more than 30 years. In 2010, he was in top of 100 "most special people" of 1000th anniversary of Hanoi city. Mr. Pham's daughter is a prodigy on the bluesy instrument, the Dan Bau, and will instruct you hands on if you would like.
Vietnamese calligraphy once played an important part, but is a disappearing from Vietnamese culture. Calligraphy has had a long history in Vietnam, previously using Chinese characters along with Chu Nôm. However, most modern Vietnamese calligraphy instead uses the Roman-character based Quuc Ngu, which has proven to be very popular.
In the past, with literacy in the old character-based writing systems of Vietnam being restricted to scholars and elites, calligraphy nevertheless still played an important part in Vietnamese life. On special occasions such as the Lunar New Year, people would go to the village teacher or scholar to make them a calligraphy hanging (often poetry, folk sayings or even single words). People who could not read or write also often commissioned at temple shrines. Calligraphy is still popular for sign motifs and advertising. We can arrange a workshop with a master of the art during your visit to Hanoi.
Day 1 | 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.
Day 2, 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.
Day 3 | 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.
Day 4 | Halong Bay to Hanoi
Savor the opaque sunrise on misty Halong Bay and be warmed by Vietnamese coffee, noodle soup, and omelettes. You can leisurely explore grottoes, cragged coves, inland lagoons, and white-sand beaches before returning to Halong City port. After farewell lunch with crew, return to Hanoi, stopping at an interesting crafts center en route.
After arrival back in Hanoi, late afternoon and dinner will be on your own. We will provide a list of wonderful choices, such as Wild Lotus, a popular restaurant with pleasant decor offering delicious Vietnamese fusion.
Day 5 | Hanoi
My Feelings Detail II, Nguyen Thi Chau GiangMorning 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.
Day 6 | Hanoi
Hanoi City TourIn 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.
Day 7 | 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.
Day 8 | Hue
Khai Dinh Tomb Tour, HueAfter 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.
Day 9 | Hue to Hoi An
Four Seasons - The WinterAfter 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, the only signifant collection in the world.
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 exquisite Nam Hai, Indochina's premier beach resort, a a massive property with a pool, massage and beauty treatments. Here, you can also learn about Chinese medicine and have a tai chi session.
In the afternoon, meeting with craftsmen and artists in their home galleries in the old quarter area along the riverfront where we'll also spy locals at leisure, playing Chinese checkers and lighting lanterns.
Dinner overlooking the Thu Bon River.
Day 10 | Hoi An
Catch of the Day by Te PhamSightseeing on foot, including Hoi An's bustling riverfront market, decorative pagodas, art studios, crafts shops, and colorful temples. Lunch of Cao Lau Soup, a specialty of 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.
Day 11 | Hoi An to Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon)
Hotel de VilleFollowing 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.
Day 12 | Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon)
Saigon Post OfficeMorning 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.
Day 13 | Ho Chi Minh City and the Mekong Delta
Mekong Delta TourMorning 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.
Day 14 | 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
Ho Chi Minh City to Siem Reap (Angkor)
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.
Angkor TourMorning 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 archaeologists 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.
BY PATRICK MORRIS
ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED IN LONELY PLANET VIETNAM 1ST ED. 1993
As tourism rapidly expands in Vietnam's more familiar cities along the coast, many traveler's are venturing to more remote areas with a fresher atmosphere. One destination growing in popularity, and soon to be overwhelmed by backpackers, is Sapa.
Sapa is a small, tranquil town that lies a mile high on the Hoang Lien Son mountain range along the Chinese border in northwest Vietnam. Nicknamed "the Tonkinese Alps" the area features vaulting rice terraces, lush vegetation and the highest peak in Vietnam, Fansipan, which towers over the village, swirled in fog from across a deep valley.
A look off towards China provides breathtaking views of no less than seven mountain ranges. The town was located by Jesuit missionaries in 1918, and, attracted by the cool and temperate climate, western arrivals soon transformed Sapa into a pleasant hill station.
Along with a church, they constructed hotels, tennis courts, an airport, hydro-electric station and summer villas. Most were abandoned or destroyed during the subsequent war for independence with the French and a border skirmish with the Chinese, but some of the colonial influence remains.
Although the name Sapa means "sand village" in Chinese and the town is located within Vietnam, it is home to a wealth of colorful, diverse hilltribes who have steadfastly resisted integration into Vietnamese society and modern life. In fact, the hill tribes, including the Hmong, the Dao, and the Dai, comprise the majority of inhabitants in the area, outnumbering the Vietnamese who have traditionally preferred the warmer climate of the low lands. Indeed, Sapa has been known to get a light sprinkling of snow in the winter.
The hill tribes are the real attraction of the area - wearing traditional dress of hand woven and dyed clothes and silver jewelry that make the Vietnamese seem like westerners. They are shy and are wary of foreigners. Usually, only the Hmongs will socialize or let you take a picture. Sapa's most notable site is its central market - a main gathering place for hilltribes from the surrounding villages. Hill tribes congregate there not only to sell handicrafts, jewelry, orchids, mushrooms, and honey, but to also cultivate relations with other groups, play games, and perhaps find a sweetheart. On some weekend evenings, singing courtships and marriages take place.
Diversions include hiking to nearby villages where it is possible to stay overnight, Silver Falls several kilometers north and a difficult, three-day scaling of Fansipan itself. A scenic train ride along the Red River takes all day to reach Lao Cai on the Chinese border. From there it is a short taxi ride straight up a dramatic road to Sapa, eighteen miles away.
Sapa is a comfortable base for exploring the area. Highlights include Vietnam's highest paved pass, local hilltribe villages, and exploration of Sapa's natural wonders and peaceful surroundings. Very cool weather and early morning fog blowing off Qui Ho Lake high above Sapa and cold to freezing weather can be expected between December and February. Preferable weather is in March and April when the coastal areas are sweltering. Accommodations are at a charming colonial style hotel overlooking the breadth of Sapa's mountain range, terraced rice fields, and deep valley. Tourism has yet to hit Sapa, but during a visit last July the road from Lao Cai was being properly paved, and a trickle of backpackers were beginning to roll in.
Dang Trung is the proprietor of the popular Auberge of his name in Sapa. Arriving during the Winter well past midnight, chilly, wet and exhausted after biking up from Lao Cai into a jet black Sapa, what few hotels that existed were all full but an awakened Dang Trung ushered me into his kitchen, stoked a fire, and cooked a warm, restorative meal. He then laid a thick mat of bedding over the very same table I'd just eaten on, tucked me in and bade me goodnight.
In the morning he was busy in the kitchen, cooking for guests and brought over another heaping meal. I wanted to stay forever. A kind, gracious man with an enigmatic reply after I'd asked how he came to speak such excellent English? "Ah, but that is history, let us talk of other things..."
Lying at nearly 4,000 feet and in the farthest north of the country, Sapa often experiences the coldest weather in Vietnam. From December through February, and sometimes into March, temperatures can drop into the mid-30s with fog off Qui Ho Lake and drizzle blotting out the stunning vistas off into China. However, Late October and November are exceptional, typically warm and it is harvest time, when the terraced rice fields are golden yellow, creating a dazzling sight.
April and May are also good months to journey to Sapa, with clearer skies. If your trip does not fall during the better months of the year, consider the shorter journey to picturesque Mai Chau, only three hours southwest from Hanoi, also rich in a diversity of hilltribes but at lower (and warmer elevation). Mai Chau has excellent light trekking and karst scenery and Cuc Phuong National Park is also nearby (more on Cuc Phuong). Also, more on weather on our weather page.
Much has changed since the above article written almost 20 years ago. Camera-toting tourists and backpackers now outnumber locals, and the charms of twenty, or even ten years ago, when we last organized trip in the area, have been replaced by the singular activity of selling stuff to tourists.
Consider this and the fact Sapa would take a large chunk of your time to visit (including a nine-hour bumpy and sleepless train ride in each direction). For a place with better weather and more convenient to get to, Mai Chai remains not nearly as busy or developed with warmer weather and only three hours by car from Hanoi. Also consider Northern Laos, where upriver from Luang Prabang lies an untrammeled area of magnificent scenery, small hilltribe villages and farms.
In no region of the world does private jet travel make more sense than in Asia. With limited commercial routing and low volume of connections, it is significantly easier and more efficient to travel private jet or helicopter, nor is there more compelling reason to do so than in Asia. Private air transfers can provide significant efficiency for visiting countries like Myanmar and Bhutan, which have limited commercial flights and entry points, as well as a poor road infrastructure that make overland travel time consuming and a rough going. Helicopter transfers will also maximize your time in cities like Bangkok with its legendary traffic, while providing stunning views over places such as Halong Bay. Private jets and large body state-of-the-art come in a variety of customized configurations, including luxury jets outfitted with every conceivable amenity.
From Australia, Europe, North America Indochina Travel can arrange for the ease and convenience of a private jet charter to fly you throughout most destinations in Asia non-stop. From North America, a private regional jet can also be an economical solution combined with flying First Class internationally, then transiting to your private jet upon arrival in Hong Kong, Singapore, Beijing, or Bangkok.
If you are arriving with your own aircraft, we will arrange for all FBO facility and ground handling services taking care of all baggage, check-in, customs and immigration procedures while for passengers and crew relax in private lounges before further transfers. Transfers airside are complimented by choices of luxury vehicles or helicopter in each location and escort servics, including siren police escort, from airport depending on location.
Ground Handling Service Includes
Ground handling services range from US$420 to $2,100 depending on airport and size of aircraft.
PRIVATE AIRCRAFT CHARTER FLEET IN ASIA
An impressive fleet of Gulfstream, Cessna, and other aircraft with a range of seats, range, cabin configuration, and amenities are ready at a moment’s notice to provide you with unmatched comfort, speed and access to regional hubs and remote airports. Select from world-class light luxury private jets to a Boeing 737 which has been fitted with a private stateroom, shower, lounge, and suite. This chart provides a quick reference to popular aircraft models we charter from Bangkok, Tokyo, Singapore, Hong Kong, and Beijing. Contact us for more detail or specific requests for chartering during your trip with us.
There's no better reason to hire a helicopter in the region than for airport transfers, which combine convenience but also a flyover of your destination, and in some cases, such as Tokyo, can be less expensive than an airport limousine.
For Tokyo's Narita Airport, Hong Kong, and Bangkok, let us arrange your transfer in the sky and if you've come with the children, you may be staying at the Peninsula which we recommend for families and boasts its own rooftop heliports. Of course, a Bangkok helicopter tour, or over Angkor, Tokyo or Hong Kong can be arranged for both day or night flyovers.
World Heritage Indochina (Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia) This classic 8-day itinerary canvases all the unique and thrilling UNESCO World Heritage sites in Cambodia, Vietnam, and Laos by private jet. Stopovers include Angkor, Luang Prabang, Hanoi, Halong Bay, Hue and Hoi An. From Bangkok, charter rates for 6 to 14 travelers begin at US$11,000 per person.
Contact us for other custom private jet itineraries in the region, including Yunnan and Tibet with the kids, Myanmar and the Golden triangle, or our Iron Chef Southeast trip.
Hong Kong provides an efficient central base for your group to connect by charter jet to most of the region, with almost all aircraft capable of reaching Beijing to the north and Phuket to the south. The luxury private jet fleet of aircraft includes a custom, luxury Boeing 737.
Treat yourself to Phuket of two decades ago. Only a 50-minute hop from Saigon lies Phu Quoc, Vietnam's, indeed Southeast Asia's best kept secret. A National Park, the 16-island archipelago of Phu Quoc (aka "the Emerald Isle") lies about 40 kilometers west of Ha Tien and, to many traveler's delight, is located within the Gulf of Thailand which has better weather than Vietnam's coastline destinations such as Nha Trang.
The major island, Phu Quoc, is an 27 miles long and covering an astonishing 732 square miles. Lying only ten miles off the Cambodian coast, the island is disputed territory that also claimed by the Cambodians but the Vietnamese are beginning to develop the island. Phu Quoc Island boasts lush tropical forest and mountain zones. The island is about the size of Singapore, but only about 75,000 people live here. Phu Quoc is blanketed with the largest remaining swath of tropical rain forest in Vietnam. The main activities are fishing and manufacture of the country's finest nuoc mam (fish sauce); about 18,000 inhabitants live mainly in the town of Duong Dong, on the west side of the island.
Phu Quoc has the desolate, pristine beaches Thailand had over thirty years ago, especially in the south (there's one called Kem Beach-Kem meaning "ice cream"). These beaches, unlike others along the wind-swept South China Sea coast in the rest of the country are more like those in Thailand, with calmer with miles of deserted white-sand. Large-scale developers have had there eyes on the island for years as the next Phuket, but as negotiations drag on the place remains pleasantly tranquil and free of tourists. A short one-hour hop from Saigon makes it our top beach recommendation if you are traveling in the south, less developed without the crowds and often windy weather of Nha Trang and Phan Thiet.
Phu Quoc is also known for nuoc mam, a pungent fermented fish sauce. Nearly half the island' s population is dependent on its production. There are coral reefs around the island, good places for diving and snorkeling, offer a chance to see beautiful tropical fish and other marine life. Marine sports focus on deep-sea fishing and snorkeling. There's also bird-watching at a rainforest located in the north of the island. Another minor attraction is the Pearl Farm, which sits about a third of the way down the length of Long Beach. Again a bit of a filler for a very slow or rainy day, the farm includes a small educational display about pearls along with the opportunity to spend a motza on a few sets of earrings.
Hotels are standard, local resorts and there are no high-end luxury properties are yet available. For nearly a decade, Phu Quoc has been of significant interest to resort developers and the government is beginning to take initial steps for formal development agreements, including the completion of a new airport. The island has the potential to rival popular destinations in the region such as Phuket and Krabi. Keep in mind, the island's lack of development means little to do or see, but it's a great escape if your seeking to relax on the sand.
Despite over a thousand miles of coastline, snorkeling is disappointing in most of Vietnam due to the South China Sea being more like the Atlantic and not the aquamarine tropical seas popular in Thailand. However, Phu Quoc is also on the Gulf of Thailand and offers sublime snorkeling and diving.
Visit November-May (June and July can be hot, but very wet); January and February are ideal months. For summer, consider Nha Trang to the north which has much less rainfall during June and July and is where the Six Senses Ninh Van Bay and Ana Mandara Resorts are located.
Also consider Koh Yao, in Thailand for an equivalent getaway in that region. Note: around late December and early January and the lunar new year, hotels fill months in advance.