Vietnam's history isn't told through books. It's alive in the lanes and backwaters, told by legendary storytellers that open up the country's heart. Hear it from decorated fighter pilots, royal artists, culinary pioneers, and other unforgettable figures that have been handpicked for this classic Vietnam experience. Immersing you in the country's four World Heritage Sites, this tour isn't about sightseeing. It's about living Vietnam through the people and places that make it, unraveling a cultural jigsaw that's complemented by the most surreal of natural landscapes.
Vietnam. A name that conjures so many images, both good and bad, authentic and misrepresented. Through private tours and exclusive invites, this classic itinerary celebrates the history behind the name's legend. It's about a country and its people, about a history that can be told from so many contrasting perspectives. As the country opens its heart you discover how a name can be incredibly multifaceted. Over the ten days you understand more and more. Yet this tour also showcases how the sublime tales fuse effortlessly with the surreal, for there's something ineffable about Vietnam that can only be captured in memories, not in photos or written words.Request a Detailed
Over the years we've forged relationships with some of Vietnam's most compelling characters. In Vietnam, you'll not want to miss and invitation into local homes, sharing ideas and stories over green tea or bowls of pho. Meet a renowned performer defying cultural conformity in Hanoi. Listen to war tales from a legendary fighter pilot. Paddle down canals in a unique coracle boat with an equally distinctive fishing family. Join novice monks in atmospheric monasteries and absorb the instruction of laconic bare-footed masters. In Hoi An you meet the woman responsible for the city's inspiring culinary prowess. In Hue you discuss imperial legacy with the artist who painted the royals.
These people reflect the country's kaleidoscope, each openly offering a new angle and version of the past. They also share hopes and dreams for the future, as well as poignant insights into how the winds of change always leave behind memoirs to yesteryear. At every stop you also have Vietnam's best guides taking you deeper into the narratives. Vietnam has one of the world's most colorful histories and these locals provide you with continual cause for intrigue.
Hopping from North to South Vietnam you explore the country's four World Heritage Sites. Each is as complex as the stories you hear. Wander through the contrasts of capital city Hanoi, from the charms of the Old Quarter to tai chi in serene parks, then onwards to unmissable museums and mausoleums. Relax in the natural splendor of Halong Bay and escape the crowds with a two-night cruise through this new seven wonder of the world. The opulent vessel provides the perfect interlude to cultural exploration and you'll have a wide choice of activities on land and water.
Into the south you bask in the imperial legacy of Hue, seen on both sides of the iconic Perfume River: a pivotal Buddhist temple, the Forbidden Purple City remains, majestic tombs of old emperors, leisurely terraces dancing to the aromas of Vietnamese coffee. Completing this classic Vietnam tour are three nights in Hoi An, a city of waterside charm that implores you to travel slowly. There's such more detail hidden down the lanes, both amongst the grand city center and the delightful surrounding landscapes. Throughout the tour, the journeys are also an integral part of the experience. Over the ten days you'll explore on bikes, cross mountain passes opened exclusively for you, find white sand beaches and unearth landscapes as iconic as the country they grace.
Land in Hanoi and Vietnam's most famous story greets you from the airport, MIG jet fighters still strewn around the runway. But venture into Hanoi and you find that the country's heart go far beyond narratives of war. Rice noodles simmer in roadside stalls, pedestrian bridges create serenity in urban parks, and history isn't confined to the museums. An ebullient atmosphere immediately introduces itself, epitomized by the fragrant stalls and lanes that weave through Hanoi's Old Quarter. Your handpicked hotel is nestled within the charm and there's so much to take in within meters of the front door. Within an hour of landing you're immersed in a country that delights in being authentic. And within another hour you've stepped into an elegant compound to discuss the perfection of performance with renowned artist Dao Anh Khanh.
Hanoi's story is best told by its people, over a bowl of pho, in their homes or on vibrant cafe terraces. The city is a living museum and its people are the information boards, incredibly open to sharing their views on past and present. Join the locals for sunrise tai chi at Hoan Kiem Lake, meet local traders and learn their culinary secrets, wander colonial and Soviet lanes with an exuberant local guide, and discuss the war with Vietnam's most decorated fighter pilot, Mr. Hong My. Complex and captivating, the stories you hear provide a surreal insight into the legends of a city and a country. From fragrant spices to rusting helicopters, the Hanoi Hilton to welcoming homes, today's journey provides the unique context to a country that's often misunderstood.
Halong Bay never looks real. Even when you wake to karsts emerging from the mist, even when you're basking on desolate beach coves or wandering through limestone caves, the new seven wonder of the world delights in its surreality. This is the lavishness provided by nature, a baffling expanse of majestic pinnacles and hidden icons. You're cruising on the finest boat in the bay, spending two days drifting through a landscape that can't be understood through photos. Halong Bay is certainly visual and there's no end to the panoramas. Yet the experience is forever remembered for its atmosphere. Perhaps nowhere else in Indochina can impose such ineffability and perhaps only locals know how to describe this mystical place; they call it the Bay of the Descending Dragon.
One day of sailing is beautiful. Two days helps you reach the lesser seen reaches of a landscape that stretches for over 1,500 square kilometers. Fishermen bring fresh catch directly to your chef, floating villages continue the ethereal theme, and wind power helps the boat maintain a restful serenity. Throughout both days there are numerous excursions, with options for kayaking in the bay, lounging on unpopulated beaches, exploring spiritual caves and admiring the baffling shades of green. After the flight to Vietnam and the sensual indulgence of Hanoi, these two idyllic days also help ensure you're fully rested for the rest of this luxury holiday in Vietnam.
Hue has always showcased the unique, the imperial capital a fusion of old-world design and regal tastes. Recuperated and revitalized after the destruction of the Tet Offensive, this World Heritage city welcomes you with an air of grace. Gardens are spacious and abundant, sublime citadel remains stretch out from your boutique hotel balcony, and you observe the personality of South Vietnam. After the transfer to Hanoi Airport and flight to Hue, you'll have some leisurely time before a unique dinner date with Miss Boi Tran, the legendary royal artist who invites you to dine in her enchanting villa. Just like in Hanoi, you find that this Vietnam luxury tour speaks a country's history through the most interesting of characters.
Today you join the jigsaw pieces of Hue's history. The tombs of Tu Duc and Khai Dinh, elegance personified amidst the sprawling colors along the Perfume River. A discussion with young monks at the Thien Mu Pagoda, draped longingly above the river's eastern bank. Relics from the Imperial Citadel, the last vestiges of the Forbidden Purple City, salvaged from the ashes with an air of defiance. What you experience are fragments from time, memoirs to a city that loves to hold its visitors captive. We specialize in Vietnam private tours and today's exploration reflects the style of this signature itinerary. It runs to your pace, follows the storylines you find most captivating, and elevates sightseeing to experiencing.
Oh how Vietnam likes to tantalize, its landscapes rolling onwards from the surreal to the sublime. Local women crouched down in flowing rice paddies; exotic lagoons that spill their colors into the South China Sea; vibrantly painted tombs juxtaposed with miles of virgin white sand; delightful villages where cabbage is sold from bicycle stalls, and conical-hatted fishermen walk beneath enduring wooden architecture. Today's drive is the country's most beautiful, a mingling of the landscapes that make a luxury holiday in Vietnam. Hai Van Pass is closed to traffic but you'll enjoy special access, just after captivating mouthfuls from a legendary seafood restaurant on Lang Co Lagoon. Arrive in Hoi An and you discover a new landscape, the quintessence of local life along the heavenly Thu Bon Riverfront.
Hoi An invites you to take a leisurely stroll. The city encourages you to move slowly and inspect the details. It intrigues and it enchants, from cafe terraces of locals playing board games to boutiques and galleries for refined tastes. This is the kind of city you never want to leave, such is its preservation of a distinctive place and time. Exclusive experiences help you travel further than the unmissable waterfront and central market. There's an interactive cooking class with renowned Tring Diem Vy, the pioneering figure in Hoi An's culinary decadence. You'll also unearth secrets with local historians. And you'll benefit from the intimate details that go into all our Vietnam private tours: handcrafted dining and shopping recommendations, street food not to be missed, soft white sand for a change of pace.
Hoi An is too good to leave. So spend another night. That means another morning ushered in by divine Vietnamese coffee, another chance to stroll lanes that have no name yet so much meaning. The city's origins are found on its surroundings fields and canals, which you explore on today's bicycle and boat tour. Follow your nostrils and peddle to the sweet herbs of Tra Que. Wind through coconut palms to shrimp farms, then drift down the canals in an unusual coracle boat. Learn the art of making basket boats and bamboo furniture. And continue cycling through the resplendent scenery, meeting farmers and villagers who add new chapters to your personalized book on Vietnamese history. Back in Hoi An there is another night to meet with artists and chefs, craftsmen and antique dealers, chess masters and barbecue perfectionists.
Vietnam lives on when you depart. This is a country that leaves its indelible mark, one that has you reminiscing many decades from now: culinary delights, cultural imprints, landscapes that surprise and legendary figures that told you their story. After a relaxed morning you end this Vietnam luxury tour with a chauffeured transfer to the airport. But perhaps this vacation will continue. Hoi An's transport connections make it easy to combine Vietnam with other legendary tales from Indochina, notably the Khmer temples of Angkor and the World Heritage charms of Luang Prabang.
The orange robes of young monks contrasts the intricate gray-scale of ruins. Fig tree roots wrap themselves around temples that have been left to the inexorable march of nature. Enigmatically sculpted figures guard the entrance to shrines and mythologized temples. Sprawling across more than 1000 square kilometers, Angkor more than lives up to its fame and reputation. Each of the more than 50 large temples can keep you captivated for hours. And each of the thousand of community shrines imbues an atmosphere that goes beyond the overly photographed sights. There's a direct flight from Danang – 30 minutes from Hoi An – to Siem Reap, the gateway town to Angkor's splendor.
You really need two full days to do justice to the site. Like the Vietnam private tours, we draw from years of experience in connecting you with the best local guides. Explore famous temples like Ta Prohm but skilfully sidestep the tour bus crowds. Find photographic angles that are yet to bombard Instagram. Discover the symmetry of shrines and the masterful design of 12th-century fortresses. Find the four faces of Avalokiteshvara on the 54 towers of Angkor Thom. Meet with the monks who lead spiritual sessions in the evocative atmosphere of temple ruins. And take in the history behind the mysterious bas-reliefs, appreciating the stories of Yajnavaraha and Jayavarman VII, French explorers and Brahman architects.
With this optional tour extension you fly to Siem Reap on the afternoon of day ten, before two days of detailed exploration. Famous temples like Angkor Wat are unmissable, symbols of the Khmer world that portray cosmology and ancient beliefs. But there's so much more and it seems there's no end to the mystique. You can then depart by plane from Siem Reap on the evening of day 12 or morning of day 13.
Luang Prabang, another of Indochina's expressions of harmony and idiosyncrasy. You may find similarities with the atmosphere uncovered in Hoi An, this being another hypnotic city of palatial architecture that's draped around the riverfront. Luang Prabang is a city of many unique sides, a World Heritage Site that effortlessly links colonial memoirs with encompassing spirituality. Share moments with novice monks, the exchange of ideas leading to fresh impressions on the world. Bicycle to sublime palaces and antique galleries. Sit in temples and tune your ears to the euphony of local sounds. Colorful markets, an inviting cafe terrace culture, architecture blending French grandeur with Asian detail and Buddhist harmony...there's so much to admire on this trip extension.
As with all our luxury tours, the details are handcrafted to your interests. Perhaps a journey along the riverfront to a cave packed with Buddha images? Maybe a cooking class that fuses the best of France with Indochina? Or witnessing the sunrise alms ritual, a procession of monks traveling serenely through the city? The city has been exceptionally preserved, not just through its architecture but through its old-world ambiance. It makes for a relaxed yet redolent end to a luxury holiday in Vietnam.
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:
View Past Tour Images
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.
Find Out More
See Our Other Photography Tours
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.
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.