VN - T 11: HIGHLIGHT OF VIETNAM, 9 days (L)
Day 1 Saigon
Arrival in Saigon (Ho Chi Minh City): meet on arrival at the airport, transfer to the hotel and free at leisure
Day 2 Saigon
After breakfast at the hotel, sightseeing in Saigon and Cholon (Chinatown). Saigon is the largest of Vietnamese cities, with the hustle and bustle of Vietnamese life visible everywhere. There are street markets, sidewalk cafes, and sleek new bars. The city churns and bubbles. Yet within this teeming metropolis are 300 years of timeless traditions and the beauty of an ancient culture. To the west of the city is District 5, the huge Chinese neighborhood called Cholon, which means 'Big Market'.
Overnight in Saigon
Sightseeing in Saigon:
NOTRE DAME CATHEDRAL: built between 1877 and 1883, it is set in the heart of Saigon's government quarter. It has a neo-Romanesque form and two high square towers, tipped with iron spires. In front of the cathedral is a statue of the Virgin Mary.
CENTRAL POST OFFICE: a French-style building with a glass canopy and iron frame, situated next to the Notre Dame Cathedral. The structure was built between 1886 and 1891 and is by far the largest post office in Vietnam.
CITY HALL: completed in 1908, also known as “Hotel de Ville”, and located at the northern end of Nguyen Hue Boulevard. With its ornate gingerbread façade, it looks like the town hall of a French town. (May be viewed from the outside only).
OPERA HOUSE: built around the turn of the century and first renovated in the 1940s, the building housed the lower division of the National Assembly. Today it is a Municipal Theater and also known as the Saigon Concert Hall. (May be viewed from the outside only).
JADE EMPEROR PAGODA: was a key meeting place for Chinese secret societies. It has very colorful and mysterious ambience.
REUNIFICATION PALACE: this was the Independence Palace of the South Vietnamese president and was stormed by tanks on 30 April 1975, signifying the fall of South Vietnam. It has been preserved in its original state.
WAR REMNANTS MUSEUM: collections of weapons and photographs from two Indochina wars are exhibited along with the original French 'Guillotine' brought here in the early 20th century.
BEN THANH MARKET: the central market of Saigon, which, with the surrounding streets, makes up one of the city's liveliest areas. Everything commonly eaten, worn or used by the average resident of Saigon is available here.
GIAM LAM PAGODA: the oldest pagoda in Saigon, built at the end of the 17th century. Because the last reconstruction here was in 1900, the architecture, layout and ornamentation remain almost unaltered by the modernist renovations that have transformed so many other religious structures in Vietnam. Ten monks live in this pagoda, which also incorporates aspects of Taoism and Confucianism.
BINH TAY MARKET: Cholon's main marketplace, much of the business conducted here is wholesale.
THIEN HAU PAGODA: built by the Cantonese congregation in the early 19th century. The pagoda is one of the most active in Cholon and is dedicated to Thien Hau. It is said that she can travel over the oceans on a mat and ride the clouds to wherever she pleases.
Day 3 Saigon
After breakfast at the hotel, excursion to Cu Chi Tunnels - 45 miles from the city to see Vietcong underground base used during the American war, this amazing network was never discovered. Afternoon continue sightseeing in Tay Ninh to visit the Caodai Great Temple at the sect’s Holy See.
CU CHI TUNNELS: Cu Chi was an important base during the American War, because of its strategic location. The Vietcong built a 200km long network of tunnels connecting command posts, hospitals, shelter and weapon factories. Dug out of hard late rite by hand tools without the use of cement, this amazing network was never discovered.
TAY NINH: this town serves as the headquarters of one of Vietnam's religions, Caodism. The Caodai Great Temple at the sect's Holy See is one of the most striking structures in all of Asia and was built between 1933 and 1955. The area's dominant geographic feature is Nui Ba Den (Black Lady Mountain), which towers 850m above the surrounding plains.
Please note that shortly before and during the annual TET festival (Vietnamese New Year) the daily ceremony of the priests in Tay Ninh may be cancelled without prior notice.
Day 4 Saigon – Danang – Hoi An
After breakfast at the hotel, transfer to the airport for flight from Saigon to Danang. Arrival in Danang, sightseeing in Danang - Vietnam's fourth largest city marks the northern limits of Vietnam's tropical zone, boasting a pleasant year-round climate.
Excursion to Hoi An - the picturesque riverside town south of Danang. Known as Faifo to early western traders, it was one of South East Asia's major international ports during the 17th, 18th, and 19th centuries. Sightseeing is best done on foot or by cyclo, and will include at least five of the below sights:
Sightseeing in Danang:
CHAM MUSEUM: founded in 1915 by the Ecole Francaise d'Extreme Orient, the open-air collection of Cham sculpture is the finest in the world. Many of the sandstone carvings are breathtaking.
CHINA BEACH: made famous in the American TV series of the same name, it stretches for many kilometers north and south of the Marble Mountains. During the American War, soldiers were airlifted here for 'rest and relaxation'.
MARBLE MOUNTAINS: Five stone hillocks, once islands, made of marble. Each is said to represent one of the five elements of the universe. The largest and most famous, Thuy Son, has a number of natural caves in which Buddhist sanctuaries have been built over the centuries. When the Champas ruled this area, these same caves were used as Hindu shrines.
Sightseeing in Hoi An:
QUAN CONG TEMPLE: founded in 1653, this Chinese temple is dedicated to Quan Cong, whose partially gilded statue is in the central altar at the back of the sanctuary. Stone plaques on the walls list contributors to the construction and repair of the temple.
PHUOC KIEN PAGODA: Chinese pagoda built around 1690 and then restored and enlarged in 1900. It is typical of the Chinese 'clans' that were established in the Hoi An area. The temple is dedicated to Thien Hau Thanh Mau (Goddess of the Sea and Protector of Sailors and Fishermen).
JAPANESE COVERED BRIDGE: the first bridge on this site was constructed in 1593 by the Japanese community of Hoi An to link the town with the Chinese quarters across the stream. The bridge was provided with a roof so it could be used as a shelter from rain and sun.
DIEP DONG NGUYEN HOUSE: built for a Chinese merchant, an ancestor of the present inhabitants, in the late 19th century. The front room on the ground floor was once a dispensary for Thuoc Bac (Chinese medicine).
TRAN FAMILY CHAPEL: this house for worshipping ancestors was built about 200 years ago with donations from family members. The Tran family traces its origins to China and moved to Vietnam around 1700. The architecture of the building reflects the influence of Chinese and Japanese styles.
SA HUYNH MUSEUM: located near the Japanese Covered Bridge, it contains exhibitions from the earliest period of Hoi An's history.
TRADING CERAMICS MUSEUM: a museum offering a display of old Hoi An ceramics.
QUAN THANG HOUSE: one of the oldest and nicest houses in Hoi An. There are some especially fine carvings on the wooden walls of the rooms around the courtyard.
PHUNG HUNG HOUSE: the same family has been living here for eight generations. The house is a combination of Vietnamese, Japanese and Chinese styles.
QUANG DONG PAGODA: a small Chinese style temple with a lintel gate, a rockery courtyard and lucky animals depicted in statuary, this pagoda was open to all Chinese traders or seamen and is dedicated to Thien Hau.
CHUA CHUC THANH PAGODA: founded in 1454 by Minh Hai, a Buddhist monk from China, it is the oldest pagoda in Hoi An. Among the antique ritual objects still in use are several bells, a stone gong two centuries old and a carp-shaped wooden gong said to be even older.
Day 5 Danang – Hue
After breakfast at the hotel, start traveling by vehicle from Danang to Hue - Journey north along Highway 1 over the Hai Van Pass and passing through many fruit orchards, small villages of red-tiled, you can enjoy spectacular views of sky and sea.
Overnight in Hue
HAI VAN PASS: the pass crosses over a spur of the Truong Son Mountain Range that juts into the South China Sea. It is an incredible mountainous stretch of highway with spectacular views.
Sightseeing in Hue:
TU DUC TOMB: Emperor Tu Duc, who ruled Hue more than 100 years ago, built his tomb when he was still alive and used it for meditation, reading and theater performances. There are pavilions in a tranquil setting of forested hills and lakes. The tomb was constructed between 1864 and 1867. Tu Duc, who was the longest reigning Emperor, lived a luxurious life.
KHAI DINH: this was the last monument of the Nguyen dynasty and was constructed between 1920 and 1931. It sits magnificently on the slopes of Chau E Mountain in Chau Chau Village. It has a long staircase flanked by dragons. There are ceiling murals and ceramic frescoes.
Day 6 Hue
After breakfast at the hotel, sightseeing at the Thien Mu Pagoda and Tomb of Emperor Minh Mang with boat trip
Overnight in Hue
Sightseeing in Hue:
THIEN MU PAGODA: just outside of Hue, on the bank of the Perfume River, this was a hotbed of anti-government protest during the early 1960s. Behind the main sanctuary of the pagoda is the Austin motorcar, which transported the monk Thich Quang Duc to the site of his 1963 self-immolation.
TOMB OF EMPEROR MINH MANG: a complex built in 1840 by King Minh Mang, known for its magnificent architecture, military statuaries and elaborate decorations. It is perhaps the most beautiful of Hue's pagodas and tombs.
OLD IMPERIAL CITY CITADEL: this is a large, moated and walled area that has a perimeter of some 10 kilometers. It was begun in 1804 by Emperor Gia Long and used to enclose the entire city. Its seven-meter walls were originally built of earth but it was decided in the 1820s to cover them with bricks. It took a thousand years and workers to complete.
IMPERIAL CITY: built in the early 19th century, it was modeled after the Forbidden City of Peking. There are numerous palaces and temples within these walls, as well as towers, a library and a museum.
FORBIDDEN PURPLE CITY: this was reserved for the personal use of the emperor. The only servants allowed into the compound were eunuchs, who would pose no threat to the royal concubine (today this site is in ruins)
Day 7 Hue – Hanoi
After breakfast, transfer to Hue airport for flight from Hue to Hanoi. Arrival in Hanoi: meet on arrival at the airport, transfer to the hotel, sightseeing in Hanoi - a city of lakes, shaded boulevards and public parks, is the capital of Vietnam. It is a very attractive city with French style buildings and less traffic than other cities in Asia
Overnight in Hanoi
Sightseeing in Hanoi:
ONE PILLAR PAGODA: built by the Emperor Ly Thai Tong, who ruled from 1028 to 1054. Constructed of wood on a single stone pillar, it is designed to resemble a lotus blossom.
TEMPLE OF LITERATURE: founded in 1070 by Emperor Ly Thanh Tong, who dedicated it to Confucius in order to honor scholars and men of literary accomplishment.
HOAN KIEM LAKE: right in the heart of Hanoi, this lake contains an islet with the tiny Tortoise Pagoda, topped with a red star.
HO CHI MINH MAUSOLEUM: in the tradition of Lenin and Stalin before him and Mao after him, the final resting place of Ho Chi Minh is a glass sarcophagus set deep in the bowels of a monumental edifice that has become a site of pilgrimage. (Closed Mondays and Fridays).
OPERA HOUSE: a magnificent 900-seat opera house built in 1911. (May be viewed from the outside only).
ST JOSEPH CATHEDRAL: a neo-Gothic cathedral finished in 1886, it is noteworthy for its square towers, elaborate altar and stained-glass windows.
Day 8 Hanoi
After breakfast at the hotel, excursion to Chua Thay and Chua Tay Phuong Pagoda
Overnight in Hanoi
Sightseeing in Hanoi:
THAY PAGODA: the Master's Pagoda, also known as Heavenly Blessing, is dedicated to Thich Ca Buddha. Eighteen arhats appear on the central altar. Water puppet shows are performed on a small stage, which is raised on stilts above a pond.
TAY PHUONG PAGODA: consists of three parallel single-level structures built on a hillock said to resemble a buffalo. Seventy-six figures carved from jackfruit wood, many from the 18th century, are the pagoda's most celebrated feature.
Day 9 Hanoi
After breakfast at the hotel, free at leisure until transfer to the airport for departure
End of Services **Note: Itinerary subject to change due to flight schedules.