This classic tour of Vietnam in 2 weeks, north to south, takes you through vibrant cities, imperial ruins, faded colonial architecture dotted with reminders of the past, a peaceful bay of islands and the colourful life of the Mekong River. Beginning in charming Hanoi and continuing with a relaxing two-day junk boat cruise through the beauty of La Han Bay, followed by exploration of the enchanting riverside town of Hội An, the imperial capital of Hue, bustling Saigon and the famous Cu Chi Tunnels, this unforgettable trip concludes with a 4-day riverboat cruise up the Mekong, crossing the border into Cambodia and ending in Phnom Penh.
In the ancient capital of Hanoi, you’ll find a charming city with a rich history. From faded French colonial architecture to ancient temples to Communist landmarks, Hanoi has it all wrapped up in a package of sensory overload. Visit national monuments, Ho Chi Minh’s house, pagodas and temples, ride on a cyclo rickshaw through the backstreets of the French Quarter and glimpse daily local life. At the end of the day, watch the legends of Vietnam play out in a Water Puppet theatre.
Cruise of Lan Ha Bay
Cruise the quiet Lan Ha Bay area of the Halong Bay archipelago aboard a sumptuous Indochine-Vietnamese junk boat. Relax, or participate in activities on board, visit Cat Ba Island and meet the villagers. Enjoy a refreshing swim or try paddle-boarding off a secluded beach on Frog Lake.
Hội An and Hue
Explore the enchanting riverside town of Hoi An, with its narrow cobbled streets, merchant houses, market stalls, colorful lanterns and iconic Japanese Bridge. Later, appreciate the scenery of the Hai Van pass on the drive to the ancient imperial city of Hue, which is famous for its citadel, pagodas, and royal tombs. Visit the impressive seven-story Thien Mu Pagoda and the tomb of Emperor Khai Dinh.
Saigon and the Cu Chi Tunnels
Discover the ‘Pearl of the Orient’ on a tour of Saigon (Ho Chi Minh City) and indulge in the famous Vietnamese cuisine on an evening food adventure. Check out all the major sights on a walking tour that includes the Saigon Opera House, the CIA building, Notre Dame Cathedral, the General Post Office, and Reunification Palace, which served as the home and office of South Vietnamese President Nguyen Van Thieu during the Vietnam War. The next day, you’ll hear more stories of the American-Vietnam war as you discover the maze-like Cu Chi Tunnels, a 136-mile network of underground tunnels used by the Viet Cong soldiers. Step back in time as you peek into the old storage areas, poke your head through camouflaged trapdoors, and crawl through military supply tunnels. Conclude with a mesmerizing show at the famous Saigon Opera House.
Mekong Cruise to Phnom Penh
Board a luxurious French Colonial riverboat and discover the charms of the Mekong River with its remote villages, historic cities, and ancient temples. A traditional sampan is used to navigate the tapestry of the narrow canals, giving you the opportunity to observe traditional life on an idyllic slice of the Mekong at Cai Be where all the activity is on the water. See the sights at the historic town of Sa Dec, visit the charming island of Cu Lao Gieng, and watch the women weaving traditional Khymer scarves at the island village of Hong Ngu, close to the Vietnam-Cambodia border. Finally cross the border into Cambodia, where you will observe a fascinating transformation in the riverfront architecture.
Please note this intrepid classic Vietnam tour is just a sample itinerary. The featured excursions, activities, and accommodations can be tailored to suit your taste, budget, and time availability in accordance with your personal wishes. All excursions and transfers are on a private basis (private transport with a private guide), with the exception of the two cruise portions, which are on a shared basis with other passengers.
Itinerary & Prices
Welcome to Hanoi!
Welcome to Hanoi – the capital of Vietnam, often referred to as the ‘Paris of the East’, with its yellow ochre colonial buildings, tree-lined boulevards, and scenic lakes.
As soon as you deplane, the designated Immigration Officer and a guide will meet you at the end of the jet bridge or the entrance of the terminal to assist you with immigration procedures to make sure that the process is as quick as possible.
From the airport, you will be driven to your hotel in the city center. Enjoy the ride through the busy streets of Hanoi. After check-in, take the rest of the day to rest and prepare for your exciting adventure in Vietnam.
Highlights of Hanoi
Your private guide will pick you up from the hotel right after breakfast.
Start by visiting Ho Chi Minh’s House, a simple wooden house in a tranquil setting where famous country leader lived and worked.
Continue to the 6th century Tran Quoc Pagoda, the oldest pagoda in Hanoi, on a small island in West Lake. Notice the many lotus flower statues and other Buddhist symbols. Tour the 11th century Taoist Quan Thanh Temple highlighted by a large yard with giant banyan tree and a shrine of the principal deities in Taoism.
In the afternoon, visit the Temple of Literature, Vietnam’s first national university built in the late 11th century.
Back to central Hanoi for a 1hr cyclo tour through the famed Old Quarter known for its ‘36 streets of 36 wares’ named after the original 36 artisan guilds that date as far back as the 13th century. Explore the fascinating maze of back streets, fronted by narrow houses, a wonderfully eclectic glimpse into Hanoi street life.
Conclude the day by watching an entertaining water puppet performance, a uniquely northern Vietnamese art form said to have originated in the flooded rice fields of the Red River Delta. The show uses colorful wooden puppets to depict scenes of rural life and episodes of national history set to music.
Back to the hotel in the late afternoon.
Cruise Scenic Lan Ha Bay
Early in the morning transfer with your driver to the Ginger pick-up point. 2 hours drive takes you to the embarkation point at Tuan Chau Marina, Halong City.
The first highlight of the cruise is the signature lunch, which we serve in Ginger’s nearly 360-degree light-flooded restaurant. Our live cooking in the open kitchen is a one-of-a-kind experience – enjoy the culinary display along with fantastic panoramic views of the passing scenery.
After lunch, the ship reaches the shore of a small lagoon on Cat Ba Island. Hop on a bicycle or take the e-cart for leisure pedalling along small paved roads towards the isolated Viet Hai village. This is a truly unique opportunity to meet local inhabitants and experience their local daily life.
Back on board join an interactive cooking class in the restaurant’s big open kitchen. Learn about local ingredients and the preparation of classic Vietnamese dishes. You are invited to lend a hand!
As the sun sets, we arrive at our tranquil anchor spot for the night. Kick bank and let reveal in your mind’s eye today’s adventures as night falls gently over the bay. After dinner, you may like to unwind at our bar with a digestif or watch a movie in the cinema which is set up in the dining area later on.
Transfer to the Ancient Town of Hoi An
Wake up early and join our Tai Chi session on the terrace deck to ease your mind and muscles with the first rays of the sun touching the water. Coffee, tea, and breakfast pastries await in the dining room to start the day.
It is time for Ginger to lift her anchors and cruise to a secluded place called “Frog Lake”. Go for a refreshing swim in the bay or explore the captivating marine landscape by kayak.
Back on board, we serve a hearty breakfast while cruising back to our off-shore embarkation spot.
After the drive back to Hanoi, you will transfer to the airport, for your late afternoon flight to Da Nang and onwards journey to a nearby Hoi An.
Relax on the Beach and Walk Around Old Hoi An
Spend your leisurely morning relaxing on the beach and join your guide for a walk in the afternoon.
Between the 15th and 19th centuries, Hoi An known then as ‘Faifo’, was a prosperous trading port, attracting Chinese, Japanese, Dutch, Portuguese and Spanish ships amongst others.
Today, this World Heritage ancient town is recognized for its well-preserved architecture, pedestrian-only streets, and distinctive local cuisine, allowing visitors a glimpse of its illustrious past.
Hoi An’s narrow lanes are ideal for a guided walking tour of its many atmospheric sights including the old merchant houses with influences from Chinese, Japanese and Vietnamese architecture; the 400-year-old Japanese Covered Bridge, the Assembly Hall of the Chaozhou Chinese Congregation, and the colorful market with stalls brimming with local specialties including silk, which can be turned into fashionable garments within a day or two.
Visit the Royal City
Depart Hoi An for a 3.5hr drive to Hue over scenic Hai Van Pass crossing over a spur of the Truong Son mountain range jutting into the sea. Once the imperial capital of the Nguyen emperors from the 17th to the 19th centuries, Hue is home to splendid emperors’ tombs, ancient pagodas, and the remains of the Citadel which contribute to its undeniable royal charm.
Explore the Imperial Citadel at the center of the Complex of Hue Monuments inscribed by UNESCO as a World Heritage site.
In the afternoon, drive to the Thien Mu Pagoda, Hue’s best-preserved religious monument. Built in 1601, the seven-story pagoda is situated on a hilltop overlooking the Perfume River and is one of Vietnam’s most recognizable icons.
Conclude your day of exploration at the Royal Tomb of Emperor Khai Dinh with a remarkable blackened concrete exterior and colorful mosaic interior. Drive back to Hoi An via the Hai Van Tunnel (6,280m/3.9mi long) in the late afternoon.
Transfer to Saigon and Find Evening Street Food
Meet your driver after breakfast for a ride back to Da Nang and your flight to bustling Saigon.
Meet your driver after breakfast for a ride back to Da Nang and your flight to bustling Saigon. Upon arrival, you will be met by your driver for a transfer to the hotel in the city center. Settle in and let yourself explore the neighborhood a bit before we see you in the early evening for the Vespa food adventure.
The darker the night gets, the more vivid Saigon becomes! Discover the life of the city after sunset, and listen to the stories of Saigon from its golden days of the 1960s to its modern days.
Stop at some of the street food stalls, restaurants, and bars. Uniquely customized for curious minds who love to get their footprints off the beaten track, the flexible menu introduces you to different courses including the most popular local delicacies, coffee, and signature cocktails tasting. Let us know your special interest and we can customize a unique route to fulfill your appetite.
Back to the hotel for a good night’s rest.
Walk Through Saigon and an Evening Show
With over eight million inhabitants and four million motorbikes, Saigon is truly a city that never sleeps.
Despite its modernity, Saigon maintains a strong link to the past. Start your walking tour at Saigon Opera House, a beautiful French colonial-era building from the late 19th and early 20th century.
Wander along Dong Khoi Street to the CIA building, where helicopters evacuated the remaining US citizens in 1975. The next stop is Notre Dame Cathedral, a red brick edifice with twin spires, based on the original construction from Paris. Head across the square to the Central Post Office, designed by the French architect, Gustav Eiffel, before he had risen to fame for the Eiffel Tower. From there, we make our way to the former Presidential Palace, the headquarters of the Saigon Government during the war. We also walk past the famous Ben Thanh market.
You may choose to make a stop at Maison Marou to taste the best Vietnamese chocolate and learn the history of the artisanal, single-origin chocolate maker.
Move on to the stunning French building built in the late twenties – originally a mansion and now Fine Arts Museum. If you are an antique lover, experience walk on the 300-meter Le Cong Kieu Street with all kinds of local collectibles and antiquities.
The last stop of this walking tour can be one of the following places:
+ Local craft beer brewery
+Sky Deck on Bitexco Tower with Panoramic Views
+ Hidden restaurant located on the top of an old apartment for lunch
Visit to the Famous War Site
Your guide will meet you right after breakfast for a 2hr drive to the famous Cu Chi Tunnels, an immense network of connecting underground tunnels started in 1948 to protect the Viet Cong guerrillas from the French air and ground sweeps. The tunnels also served as living quarters, communication and supply routes, and housed hospitals, food, and weapons caches. Touring the underground compounds will provide a better understanding of the history of the tunnels, the hardship of life in the tunnels, and the Vietnamese resilience during combat.
Return to Saigon in time for late lunch.
Late in the afternoon depart from your hotel to see one of the stunning productions of the Lune Production at the famous Opera House. Witness a mesmerizing combination of dance, acrobatics, circus, and traditional live music performed against the background of decorations from traditional Vietnamese objects.
Embark the Mekong Navigator
Depart Saigon in the afternoon on a scenic drive to the port of My Tho to embark the luxurious Mekong Navigator. As the upstream journey begins, experience the cordial hospitality on the Sun Deck at a welcome reception and introduction to the friendly and professional crew who will present a safety briefing. In the evening a “Mekong Delta” themed dinner offers a cultural and innovative introduction to Vietnamese cuisine.
Meals (B, L, D)
Old Mekong Port Towns
After a short sail to Cai Be, explore the famous Delta waterways by sampan, passing a colorful collection of local boats and the characterful stilted houses. Continuing into the narrower canals of Cai Be, a stop is made to visit Ba Duc House, traditional Vietnamese home and garden. Next reach a traditional rice factory where industrious artisans produce rice paper, rice wine, and popped rice.
On return to the ship, an elegant buffet lunch is served while sailing upstream through tranquil riverine scenery towards Sa Dec.
On arrival at Sa Dec port the traditional sampan is again used to navigate the canals. Visit a former home of Mr. Huynh Thuy Le, who was the inspiration for Marguerite Duras’ famous novel, L’Amant (The Lover). The next stop is a Chinese temple built in honor of the Huynh Thuy Le Family.
Return to the ship on foot through the town’s bustling market with many photo opportunities.
Meals (B, L, D)
Villages and Canals
In the morning, we’ll make a landing on the charming island of Cu Lao Gieng to visit a local village where hundreds of sampans and rowing boats are made daily.
An enchanting sampan cruise circumnavigating the island ends with a visit to the Cu Lao Gieng Cathedral. The peaceful villages are surrounded by flourishing orchards and verdant green lawns, far removed from the hustle and bustle of city life.
Mid-afternoon your sampans take you to the local island village of Hong Ngu. Here, a large number of traditional Khmer scarves are woven and exported to Cambodia. Observe the weaving process passed down many generations. The inhabitants of this rural area have only recently become familiar with western travelers and always offer a friendly welcome. Before returning to the sampans you can enjoy a walk around the beautiful evergreen island, stopping for a visit at the home of a local war veteran.
Meals (B, L, D)
Cambodia Border Crossing
Today the ship’s staff will fully take care of your border formalities, while you can relax and enjoy leisure time on the sundeck, in the lounge, library, or wonderful La Vie spa until mooring close to the city of Phnom Penh late evening. Observe a fascinating transformation in the riverfront architecture. Exciting cultural activities will take place on board.
Arrival in Phnom Penh
Following breakfast, the crew will bid you farewell as you disembark in Phnom Penh for your journey home or your onwards explorations.
Your local driver will meet you at the port and drive you to the airport or your hotel in the city.