Vietnam & Angkor Wat

Vietnamese food is even more delicious when you learn how to make it yourself.Vietnam is a land of breathtaking natural beauty, abiding tradition and profoundly hospitable people. It is a nation reborn, and we take you to the most beautiful parts of the northern and central parts of the country.

We will meet in Hanoi and stay on the edge of the Old City, a fascinating covey of small alleys with traditional shops and friendly vendors. We will visit Ho Chi Minh’s tomb, attend a performance of the Water Puppets, and enjoy a cooking class before we depart for beautiful Halong Bay, the amazing UNESCO World Heritage site, where we will spend 3 days and 2 nights aboard our private junk. We will visit Sapa to experience the traditional ways of life in the beautiful mountains northwest of Hanoi. Finally,  we fly south to visit the ancient cities of Hue and  Hoi An before flying to Cambodia.

The capstone of the trip will be our visit to the incomparable Angor Wat complex in Cambodia. New parts of the ancient city are still being discovered. We finish our journey with a visit to the thriving city of Phnom Penh, located at the confluence of two rivers and the center of arts and culture of Cambodia.

Detailed Itinerary

Day One.   Hanoi

Vietnames Fruit Vendor sells from her bicycle

A lady fruit vendor in the Old Quarter of Hanoi.

You will have a leisurely morning to rest from your flight. In the afternoon, we will go out to discover the Old Quarter of Hanoi, which is adjacent to our boutique hotel. We will have a walking tour to explore the interesting streets and tasting the culinary delights of Hanoi street food. We will take a cyclo (rickshaw) ride to explore the streets and neighborhoods. In the evening we will enjoy a Welcome Dinner featuring some of northern Vietnam’s finest dishes.

Hotel: Lucien Hanoi Hotel & Spa

Meals Included: Dinner


The art and skill of a calligrapher in Vietnam

A master calligrapher in Hanoi.

Day Two.   Hanoi

We begin today with a market tour with the chef of our cooking class. We will explore markets to find the ingredients needed for our class at The Blue Butterfly Restaurant. Learning about the local foods is a fascinating introduction to Vietnam, a country long famed for its cuisine of fresh and healthy ingredients prepared in simple ways. During this half-day experience, we will learn several recipes from our chef and conclude with eating the food we have prepared, accompanied by a local beer or wine.

In the afternoon we will take a cyclo ride to the beautiful Hoan Kiem Lake, known as the Lake of the Restored Sword. It is closely linked to the Legend of Le Loi the Hero, who asked the heavens for help in resisting the advance of the Chinese in 1418 A.D. Afterwards, we will attend a performance of the Water Puppet Show, a unique art form which originated in northern Vietnam. The evening is free.

Hotel: Lucien Hanoi Hotel & Spa

Meals Included: Breakfast, Lunch (Cooking Class)


Day Three.   Hanoi

Today we will enjoy visiting historical attractions of Hanoi. We will discover that Hanoi is a blend of the modern with the mystery and charm of past centuries; Hanoi offers an air of elegance and harmony with nature. We begin with a visit Ba Dinh Square to see Ho Chi Minh’s Mausoleum; then visit the Presidential Palace; see the simple cottage where he lived and worked and One Pillar pagoda or Chua Mot Cot originally built in 1049 A.D. We continue  to Westlake and the Tran Quoc Pagoda. Also, we will visit Van Mieu or Temple of Literature, which dates back to 1070 and is dedicated to the cult of Confucius. We will have lunch in a colorful local restaurant where President Obama lunched with Anthony Bourdain. After lunch we will stop at the Ethnology Museum to learn about the many varied ethnic groups of Vietnam. Our final stop is the infamous Hoa Lo Prison,  nicknamed the “Hanoi Hilton” by American prisoners-of-war during the Vietnam War.

Hotel: Lucien Hanoi Hotel & Spa

Meals included: Breakfast, Lunch,


Day Four.   Hanoi – Mai Chau

Today, we drive to Mai Chau, a region in the mountains in which various minority groups of ethnic Thai people live. The White Thai and the Black Thai tribes came from the southern part of China in the 7th – 13th centuries. Along the drive, we will stop to visit the Muong Tribe and also stop at the Thung Khe Pass for a spectacular view of the Mai Chau Valley. We will enjoy a typical lunch with a family of the White Thai tribe and then have free time to meet other villagers. In the afternoon, we will bicycle for a couple of hours through small villages with terraced rice paddies, set amidst the natural beauty of the valley. We will also visit the villages of Pom Coong and Na Phon. Then we will check into the Minh Tho Mai Hich Homestay and have time to relax at their small pool before dinner. In the evening we will have the opportunity to prepare and cook dinner with the family who own the Homestay.

Lodging: Minh Tho Mai Hich Homestay

Meals Included: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner


Day Five.   Mai Chau – Puluong Nature Preserve

Located about 1.5 hrs from Mai Chau is the Puluong Nature Preserve, which was established in 1999. It is home to ethnic Muong and Thai people and it is well known for fabulous landscapes of limestone mountains and rice terrace fields. As we drive to the Preserve, we will go through the mountain pass with a panoramic view of the region. We will enjoy lunch here at a family restaurant and take a leisurely walk to admire the stunning views.

Hotel: Puluong Nature Preserve

Meals Included: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner


Day Six.   Puluong – Galaxy Grotto – Tam Coc

We say goodbye to Puluong and drive (3 hrs.) to Tam Coc. On the way we will stop at the Galaxy Grotto for a riverboat ride exploring this fantastic grotto. After this sampan boat trip, we will have lunch at local restaurant. In the afternoon, we will visit the ancient capital of Hoa Lu and then check into the Tam Coc Rice Field Resort.

Hotel: Tam Coc Rice Field Resort

Meals Included: Breakfast,  Lunch, Dinner


Day Seven.   Tam Coc – Halong Bay

We will depart at 8 AM for Halong Bay. The 4 hour ride will take us to the Hong Gai International Harbor by mid-day. We will board the Dragon Pearl where we will receive a welcome drink and orientation. Between 1.30 PM – 2.30 PM we will enjoy a set menu lunch served in the outdoor dining room (weather permitting) and continue cruising into the magnificent Bai Tu Long Bay, admiring the limestone karst mountains on the way.   Ha Long Bay, Vietnam is an amazing landscape best seen by boar

Sailing through Halong Bay.

In the late afternoon, we will cruise to the Vung Dang and Cong Dam area where you can swim or relax on a white sandy beach. Also, it is possible to go kayaking through the mysterious Karst Mountains in the Vung Dang area. At 6 pm we will return to the Dragon Pearl where you can refresh yourself in a Mineral Seawater Pool, or the Fitness Room, or take advantage of the Spa & Massage Service (fee not included) before dinner. You can spend the remainder of your evening relaxing, talking to the crew or watching movies. The ship will overnight in the Tra San area.

Lodging: Aboard the Dragon Pearl

Meals Included: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner


Day Eight.   Halong Bay – Da Nang – Hoi An

After returning to port, we fly to Da Nang and then drive in our private vehicle (45 min.) to the delightful UNESCO World Heritage site of Hoi An. Hoi An is one of the most beautiful cities in Vietnam and it features a mix of Vietnamese, Chinese, Japanese and European architecture. As a UNESCO World Heritage location, tourism is what drives Hoi An today. However, it made its start with international trade, reaching its heyday in the early 17th century when Hoi An was one of the busiest ports in Southeast Asia.

Hotel: Vinh Hung Riverside Resort

Meals Included: Breakfast , Lunch


Day Nine.   Hoi An

Vietnamese women are hard working and industrious.

Bags of fruit delivered to a market in Vietnam

Today we will spend a day of exploring Hoi An, which is a very pedestrian friendly small town. As noted, Hoi An was the most important port of Vietnam during the 16th century. Due to the monsoons, many trading vessels (Chinese, Thai, Japanese, Arab, Indian, Dutch and even Portuguese) had to stop here for months and wait for the wind direction to change. During the four months between monsoons, these merchants rented lodgings and trading houses, preferably on the waterfront. Many merchants bought houses and conducted trading activities all year round. With our guide, we will walk through the streets of Hoian’s Ancient Town.

Hoi An is well-known for the quality of its tailor – made clothes shops, which are numerous. Our guide will be at your disposal to help with visiting local tailors to have clothes specially tailored for you. Order your clothes today and you will receive them the next day.

Hotel: Vinh Hung Riverside Resort

Meals Included: Breakfast, Lunch


Day Ten.   Hoi An

Noodle shops and coffee shops are plentiful in Vietnam

Noodle shop in Vietnam

Today we enjoy a cooking class!

We will board the red bridge boat for a leisurely cruise (25 minutes) along the Hoi An River to the Red Bridge Cooking School. On arrival, we will tour the cooking school’s herb and vegetable garden before learning about some of Hoi An’s and Vietnam’s well-known dishes. The cooking lesson runs for about 2 hours – each dish is first demonstrated by the Red Bridge chef and then we prepare the same dish for ourselves. Included in the class is a brief introduction to Vietnamese food carving (plate decoration). After the lesson, we will sit down and enjoy eating exactly what we have cooked.

Hotel: Vinh Hung Riverside Resort

Meals included: Breakfast, Lunch


Day Eleven. Hoi An – Da Nang

After breakfast we will bike 45 minutes to Organic Gardening Village where we will join in farming activities with the local farmers. Then we continue biking to the An Bang Beach for lunch of fresh seafood. After lunch, we return to Hoi An and transfer to Da Nang city for sightseeing and free time in the afternoon. Da Nang has a lovely beach, My Khe, which will attract anyone wishing for some relaxing time there. In the late afternoon, we can go to the rooftop bar for a lovely panorama of the city (or swim in the infinity pool) as the sun sets.

Hotel: Haian Riverfront Hotel

Meals included: Breakfast, Dinner


Day Twelve.   Danang – fly to Siem Reap, Cambodia

Large stone faces carved in stone decorate the temples of Angkor Wat.

Massive stone sculptures protect the temples of Angkor Wat.

Ba Na is an interesting area in this region as often one can feel the four distinct seasons within a single day: morning – spring, noon – summer, afternoon – autumn and evening – winter. Not many places in the world can make this claim! We will take a Cable Car to Ba Na Hills to visit the Golden Bridge which is a 150-meter long pedestrian bridge with two giant stone hands supporting the structure. It is designed to connect the cable car station with the gardens and to provide a scenic overlook. Following this we will drive to the airport to fly (1.5 hr.) to Siem Reap, Cambodia

Hotel: Viroth’s Hotel

Meals included: Breakfast, Lunch


Day Thirteen. Siem Reap

The stone temples of Angkor Wat are silhouetted by the rising sun.

Sunrise at Angkor Wat

We venture out in the early in the morning to avoid the heat and crowds visiting Angkor Wat, one of the magnificent wonders of the world. This UNESCO World Heritage site covers over 500 acres and new parts are still being discovered. We will visit and photograph the famous temple of Ta Prohm as well as the lightly visited Ta Nei. We break for lunch in the mid-day and then visit the Terrace of the Leper King and the atmospheric Preah Palilay in the afternoon. We will take the time to explore the temples and photograph at our own pace.

In the evening we will attend a performance of the amazing Phare, The Cambodian Circus. Founded by survivors of the Khmer Rouge genocide, the circus combines theater, story telling, dance and music.

Hotel: Viroth’s Hotel

Meals Included: Breakfast, Dinner


Day Fourteen. Siem Reap

People living on Tonle Sap Lake depend on fishing for their primary food.depend on the fish

Houses on stilts in Tonle Sap Lake

We start at pre-dawn to witness and photograph the breathtaking view of Angkor Wat temple at sunrise. In the morning we explore the central complex and bas-reliefs of Angkor Wat. In the afternoon we travel 60 minutes through picturesque villages and rice paddies to the remote village of Kompong Kleang. This village of stilt houses reveals a traditional lifestyle of people whose lives are dependent on fishing in Lake Tonlesap.

Hotel: Viroth’s Hotel

Meals included: Breakfast, Dinner.


Day Fifteen. Siem Reap – Fly to Phnom Penh

The golden Royal Palace offers a glimpse of how the Cambodian royal family used to live

The Royal Palace in Phnom Penh

We catch a short 45 minute flight to Phnom Penh. In the afternoon, we will have an architectural tour of Phnom Penh  led by a Cambodian architect. The architecture in the city reflects a rich assortment of royal Cambodian and French colonial styles. In the evening we will enjoy a performance of the Cambodian Living Arts, a blend of dance and music honoring the traditions of Cambodia.

Hotel: The Palace Gate Hotel & Resort

Meals included: Breakfast, Lunch.


Day Sixteen. Phnom Penh

In the morning we will visit the National Museum, which is home to the world’s finest collection of Khmer sculpture. Next, we will visit the infamous Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum, a former high school that was converted into a prison and interrogation center by the Khmer Rouge during the dark period of Cambodian history in the 1970s.

A visit to Phnom Penh is not complete without a shopping trip to the Russian Market, a warren of shops that has everything from clothes to furniture and food. We will end our day with a sunset cruise and drinks on the Tonle Sap River followed by a Farewell Dinner.

Hotel: Hotel: The Palace Gate Hotel & Resort

Meals included: Breakfast, Dinner.


Day Seventeen.  Phnom Penh. Tour Ends.

After breakfast, we will visit the Royal Palace and the Silver Pagoda–with over 5000 silver tiles—and then the National Museum, home to the world’s foremost collection of Khmer art. Later in the day or evening you will be transferred to the airport for your flight home.

Meals included: Breakfast


What’s Included

(Almost everything once you’re there!)

  • Sixteen nights in boutique hotels, for two people sharing
  • Domestic flight: Hanoi – Da Nang;  Siem Reap – Phnom Penh
  • International flight: Da Nang, Vietnam – Siem Reap, Cambodia
  • Transfers to and from airports in Hanoi, DaNang, Siem Reap & Phnom Penh
  • Boat trips on Ha Long Bay & Lake Tonle Sap
  • All local ground & river transportation with bottled water, driver, English-speaking guides.
  • Admission to attractions, museums, cooking classes.
  • Gratuities for drivers, porters, restaurants, boat crew
  • Breakfast everyday, seven lunches and nine dinners
  • A personalized packet of information including market buying tips, restaurant recommendations and information on places you will visit.

What’s Not Included

  • International flights to and from Vietnam & Cambodia
  • Vietnamese eVisa ($25) and Cambodia ($35) Tourist Visas,  trip insurance, some meals as per itinerary, drinks, personal expenses.
  • Single Room Supplement for rooming alone.
  • Early check-in/late check-out
  • Gratuities local  English speaking guides.
  • International airport taxes

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“Vietnam and Cambodia are two of the most exotic countries in the world and it was wonderful to explore them through Benjamin’s and Myo’s eyes.”
– Judi, Asheville, NC