Explore Vietnam’s cities, history, and art scene on this luxury Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh tour, which includes a sea cruise through Lan Ha Bay on a deluxe Indochine junk, and a fabulous French Colonial riverboat cruise through the Mekong Delta and across the Cambodian border to Phnom Penh.
Tour Vietnam’s charming capital of Hanoi and visit the Imperial Citadel of Thang Long, where beneath the ancient gates lies a secret underground bunker used by North Vietnamese generals during the American War. Continue to the Temple of Literature, and glimpse local life in the backstreets of the French Quarter. Later, explore the Hanoi art scene and galleries in the company of an art curator, visit the Fine Arts Museum and meet a traditional Hang Trong woodcut artist. Watch the Quintessence of Tonkin, a live stage show that will introduce you to Vietnamese customs and culture. Wander through narrow, zigzagging terracotta alleyways past the century-old houses of Tho Ha village in the Red River Delta and observe traditional country life and craft making.
Lan Ha Bay cruise
Kick back on a two-day-cruise of 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.
Saigon and the Cu Chi Tunnels
After completing your Hanoi and Halong Bay tour, embark on an excursion through Saigon in the company of a knowledgeable guide, check out all the major sights including Notre Dame Cathedral, the General Post Office, the War Remnants Museum, and the Reunification Palace, which served as the home and office of South Vietnamese President Nguyen Van Thieu during the Vietnam War. Conclude your day at an art exhibition, where you will meet and dine with the curator and artist. The next day, you’ll hear more stories of the American-Vietnam war as you discover the maze-like Cu Chi Tunnels in the company of a Viet Cong veteran who once lived there. Step back in time as you peek into the old storage areas, poke your head through camouflaged trapdoors, and crawl through military supply tunnels. In the evening, dine on home-cooked food with a local family.
Mekong Delta & cruise to Cambodia
The Mekong Delta is a sprawling region of intensively cultivated land, where the lives of the locals are dependent on the Mekong River and its myriad of tributaries and canals. In a specially arranged ceremony, you can donate a sampan to a family in need before boarding a luxurious French Colonial riverboat and discovering the charms of the Mekong River with its remote villages, historic cities, and ancient temples. See the sights at the old town of Sa Dec, visit the Chau Doc floating market and the Long Son Pagoda. Meet Buddhist monks and local villagers, go on a bike ride or ride in a rickshaw. Cross the border into Cambodia, where you will observe Khymer artisans dyeing and weaving textiles, visit a traditional village and enjoy a tuk-tuk tour of Phnom Penh.
Please note all of the featured excursions, activities, and accommodations can be tailored to suit your taste, budget, and time availability in accordance with your personal wishes. All are private tours and 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. The officer will 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. After check-in, take the rest of the day to rest and prepare for your exciting adventure in Vietnam.
Hanoi Highlights and Thang Long Citadel
After a leisurely morning you will be picked up from your hotel in the early afternoon.
Explore the charming city of Hanoi, often referred to as the ‘Paris of the East, with its yellow ochre colonial buildings, tree-lined boulevards, and scenic lakes. Start your city tour at the Thang Long Citadel. Built in the 11th century by the Ly Viet Dynasty to mark the independence of the Dai Viet and named a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2010, the Citadel was a political centre of the country for 13 consecutive centuries and served as the capital of Vietnam for eight centuries. Visit the secret underground war bunker which played an important role in the American War, especially during the 12 days and nights of the Ha Noi – Dien Bien Phu air battle of 1972.
Continue to the Temple of Literature, Vietnam’s first national university built in the late 11th century. The picturesque temple is an example of well-preserved traditional Vietnamese architecture and is featured on the back of the 100,000 Vietnamese Dong banknote. Drive back to central Hanoi for a walking 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.
Tho Ha Village in the Red River Delta
Travel to the photogenic Red River Delta village of Tho Ha via a 45min drive from Hanoi and a short ferry across the Cau River.
Despite the increasing industrialization of the area, the village of Tho Ha has remained mostly unaffected by modern development. Walkthrough the village’s narrow terracotta-tiled alleyways, a reminder of its history as one of Vietnam’s three oldest ceramic centers. Notice the many bamboo racks filled with drying rice paper, speaking to the current occupation of many of its inhabitants after the pottery industry faded. Visit here presents an authentic portrait of a typical Vietnamese village with some of the homes dating back more than a century.
Visit the 17th century Tho Ha Pagoda with its triple gate, belfry, and forecourt carved with dragons, clouds, and flowers. Enjoy a conversation with one of the residents to gain insights into life in the village before returning to Hanoi.
Art in Hanoi and an Evening Show
This morning, we will take you on a unique tour of the modern and traditional arts of North Vietnam. Known as the cultural center of Vietnam, Hanoi is home to more than 250 art galleries. Led by an art curator, your introduction to Hanoi’s art scene begins at the Fine Arts Museum, housed in two colonial-era buildings.
Learn about the Hang Trong Art paintings – a traditional genre of Vietnamese woodcut painting, seen in the temples and shrines. It originated from the area of Hàng Trống and Hàng Nón streets in the Old Quarter, where we will drive to meet one of the very few remaining artists proficient in this type of art. With the passion and love for art painting, at the age of 66 years old, he still devotes his energy to preserve the traditional craft.
Conclude your art experience at Manzi café Art Space. Tucked in a colonial villa inside the Heart of Old Quarter, Manzi is an art place of contemporary Hanoian artists, hosting diverse exhibitions of painting, sculpture, and photography.
Return to your hotel at lunchtime and meet your guide again in the evening for a traditional dinner and a spectacular show.
The venue of The Quintessence of Tonkin is in Sai Son Village, Quoc Oai District, 20km outside of Hanoi. It is performed by nearly 200 farmers from the village. Set in the open-air large amphitheater, the show draws inspiration from the spiritual history of the nearby Thay Pagoda by telling the story of the pagoda’s founding by venerable monk Tu Dao Hanh and explains the ancient union between religion and the monarchy. The show blends different aspects of the cultural Quintessence of Tonkin: Poetry, Buddhism, Nostalgia, Music & Painting, Joy & Festivities. The 1000 years old art of water puppetry will bring you vivid images of daily rural life in Vietnam.
Right before the show, you will have a chance to try some local dishes from the outdoor food village right at the venue.
Meals (B, D)
Scenic Lan Ha Bay Cruise
You will transfer to the city of Halong (2 hrs drive) right after breakfast and take a speedboat from the marina to your luxurious boat.
The first highlight of the cruise is 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.
Relax on the terrace deck or your private balcony and soak in the enchanting aura which emanates from the surreal seascape.
In the afternoon, as we reach the shore of a small lagoon on Cat Ba Island, we visit a small Viet Hai village. Little has changed in Viet Hai since the ancestors of the 80 households settled here centuries ago. The community is self-sufficient, as the residents provide for themselves by cultivating vegetables and fruits in the next-door fields, growing rice in the valley, and fishing in the bay. This is a truly authentic opportunity to meet local inhabitants and experience their daily life.
Back onboard the chef invites you to an interactive cooking class. Learn about local ingredients and the preparation of classic Vietnamese dishes.
As the sun sets, we arrive at our tranquil anchor spot for the night. Kick back and let reveal in your mind’s eye today’s adventures as night falls gently over the bay. After dinner, unwind at our bar or see a movie screened at the lounge.
Quiet Morning and Transfer to Saigon
Wake up early and join our Tai Chi session on the terrace deck, 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 place called “Frog Lake”, a secluded area perfect for a refreshing swim in the bay or exploration via kayak.
Back on board, we serve a hearty breakfast while cruising back to our off-shore embarkation spot, from where we transfer you back to the welcome lounge at the pier by your speed boat. Savor the last moments of this unique journey while relaxing on comfy sunbeds on the terrace deck.
We will disembark at around 11:00 AM, and return to Hanoi in the early afternoon. We’ll take you straight to the airport for your flight to Saigon.
Upon your arrival at Saigon Airport, you will be met by the driver and transferred to your hotel in the city center.
Saigon Highlights and Dinner with the Artist
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 and our city tour takes in some of Saigon’s most historic landmarks.
Meet your guide after breakfast for a short walk or car ride to the Notre Dame Cathedral, a red brick edifice with twin spires constructed from materials imported from France (entrance is only permitted when no services are being performed). Then head across the square to the Central Post Office, completed in 1891. A short drive away is the former Presidential Palace, the headquarters of the Saigon Government during the American War. Continue to the War Remnants Museum for a vivid perspective of the American War through the eyes of the Vietnamese. (Please note that some of the displays are very graphic.) Experience Saigon’s famed street coffee culture while your guide provides a brief language lesson as well as insights into the daily life of a Saigonese before returning to your hotel at lunch time.
In the evening we’ll bring you to Salon Saigon, an important art centre of Saigon. Meet the Salon’s curator and the artist who is exhibiting their work at the gallery. Follow their steps and take in the art collection on the 1st floor of this charming colonial building before sitting down for a special cocktail (which was served to French artists in the 18th & 19th centuries) and to enjoy traditional dance performance on the ground floor.
Vietnam is a diverse country with 54 different ethnic groups – each with its own rich culture and practices. Traditionally, dance has been an important feature of each group’s culture – performed in theatres and at festivals, especially after harvest time. Afterward, enjoy dinner with the Salon Saigon art curator and the local artist in the peaceful and creative setting before transferring back to your hotel.
Cu Chi Tunnels with a Veteran and Dinner with Traditional Family
The ingenious Cu Chi tunnel complex is an immense network of connecting underground tunnels used by the Viet Cong as hiding spots during combat. Originally dug in 1948 as a refuge from French air and ground sweeps, the tunnels also served as living quarters, communication and supply routes, housed hospitals, food and weapons caches throughout the American War.
Visit the underground villages with a VC veteran who once lived there, for a better understanding of the tunnels’ history, the hardship of life in the tunnels, and the Vietnamese resilience during combat. With the help of your translator-guide, listen as the veteran recalls how he survived the living conditions of the subterranean hamlets where lack of air, food, and water made conditions almost unbearable. Return to Saigon in the afternoon.
PM: Meet your guide for a very special experience.
Pick up at your hotel and transfer to your host family located on the outskirts of the city. In Vietnam, a typical family has three or four generations living under the same roof. By joining this tour, you will be able to have a closer look into their lives.
Mrs. Hong, the host of your dinner is a hostess who owns an authentic Vietnamese restaurant in the city center. She is also a chef and a professor at cooking schools and colleges in Saigon. Enjoy traditional Vietnamese meals lovingly prepared with fresh ingredients by a welcoming host. The host will be happy to share her delicious home cook recipes with you to take home as well.
After the meal, there will be time to interact with your hosts to understand more about relationships in a Vietnamese family.
Transfer to the Mekong Delta and Sampan Donation
This morning we will transfer you to the Mekong Delta for some in-depth exploration. You will soon learn that the sampan boats are an important mode of transportation and livelihood in the Delta where the intricate network of waterways is often a cheaper, safer alternative to roads in transporting goods and conducting commerce.
Yet, despite generations of effort, some families still cannot afford their sampan, which is significantly impacting their economic situation. Today you can donate a sampan to a family and significantly improve their life. Interact with the family receiving your sampan donation. Learn about their livelihood and ways of living in the Delta. Participate in a small sampan donation ceremony with local authorities and villagers as witnesses where all will share in the joy that your generosity has made possible.
From here we will take you to your resort, for a relaxed afternoon by the river. Enjoy the pool and the spa or choose to visit My Tho town and observe the locals go about their lives.
Embark the Ultra Luxury Boat
Your driver will bring you to the My Tho port right in time for the embarkation.
Settle into your floating retreat, with its window wall conferring an endlessly captivating panorama. Enjoy these private Mekong moments on your California king bed, terrace or daybed.
Weaving Village and Plantations
Begin the day at Binh Thanh mat weaving village or opt to visit Sa Dec where we will peruse the vibrant market and see the famous house of Marguerite Duras’ legendary lover, Mr. Huynh Thuy Le.
In the afternoon, visit a typical Mekong Delta village called My An Hung where we will walk through verdant plantations. We will be invited to a local’s home to taste local fruits while hearing traditional folk songs performed by villagers followed by a unique unicorn dance. A 17-kilometer Biking option is also available.
Pagodas, Market, and Cooking Demo
Travel by skiff along Bassac Canal to Chau Doc floating market then head off by van to Long Son Pagoda atop Sam Mountain. Ask the monks about their age-old Buddhist practices. Return via the bustling morning market. Optional 18 kilometers bike ride on Long Khanh Island or take a rickshaw ride to visit Tan Chau Market with chef.
After lunch, relax by the pool, try traditional Khmer massage or learn to cook Mekong inspired dishes while we cross the border.
Remote Mekong Lives
On this river of time, we admire dexterous Khmer artisans dyeing and weaving kroma, the ubiquitous item no Khmer lives without. Explore the riverbank on two wheels if you wish, past Buddhist temples and thatch houses perched on spindly wooden stilts while white oxen wade just offshore.
After lunch, we board our marine-grade aluminum skiffs and head towards the tamarind trees of Preah Prosop, a remote village little changed over several lifetimes.
The Capital of Cambodia
We show off the Cambodian capital to our passengers by motorized tuk-tuk, the Royal Palace, Silver Pagoda and the National Museum of Cambodia, home to the world’s largest collection of Khmer art. For those who wish, we visit the Tuol Sleng Museum of Genocide and the Killing Field or shopping at Russian Market.
After you disembark, you will meet you driver who will take you to the airport or the hotel, depending on your travel arrangements.