Living History:
A Classic Tour Vietnam Past & Present

Celebrating a legendary heritage, this private tour is packed full of Vietnam’s cultural and natural grandeur

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.

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Meet Locals Who Share Their Story

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.

World Heritage Sites and Iconic Journeys Through Rural Vietnam

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.

Luxurious Styles and Personalized Extras

  • Meet the people behind the history and get invited into the homes of Vietnam's legendary storytellers, including renowned chefs, decorated war veterans, fisher families and regal artists.
  • Explore the colorful complexities of Hanoi, from Old Quarter market vendors to colonial lanes, soup stalls to unmissable museums, sprawling cafe terraces to hosts and their homes.
  • Spend two days cruising through surreal landscapes on the most decadent of Halong Bay vessels, disembarking to deserted beaches, enchanting caves, kayak adventures and limestone karsts.
  • Connect the jigsaw pieces of Vietnam's history with two days in World Heritage Hue, imperial capital and celebration of your journey beyond the country's stereotypes.
  • Lose yourself in the untrammeled charm of Hoi An, the city of historic mansions and splendid adventures along canals and byways.
  • Uncover the majesty of Vietnam's landscapes, from waterfronts of conical-hatted fishermen to rice paddies as green as the imagination.
  • The charm is never interrupted as you settle into Vietnam's finest boutique hotels, handpicked choices that celebrate the country's prevailing atmosphere.
  • Continue the adventure with easy Indochina tour extensions like the Khmer temples of Angkor and the delights of Luang Prabang.

Day by Day

Day 1

A Country and Capital Opens Its Heart

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.

Day 2

Unique Connections With the Locals and Legends of Hanoi

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.

Day 3-4

Iconic Sailing Adventure Through Halong Bay

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.

Day 5

The Imperial Capital and Another World Heritage Site

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.

Day 6

Stories Told by Monks and Tombs for Royalty

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.

Day 7

Immersed in the Emerald Landscapes of Vietnam on Route to Hoi An

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.

Day 8

Culinary Indulgence and Emblems From the Vietnam Postcard

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.

Day 9

Cycling and Boating Amongst Indigenous Lifestyles and Landscapes

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.

Day 10

Taking Away the Legacy of Vietnam

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.

Optional Vietnam Private Tour Extension: Siem Reap (Angkor)

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.

Optional Classic Vietnam Tour Extension: Luang Prabang

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.

Ready to begin planning your Vietnam luxury tour?

Call us in San Francisco at (628) 256-0093 or send us a message:

INDOCHINA Travel Company

1283 12th Avenue San Francisco, California
Phone: (628) 256-0093