Arrive in Hanoi and transfer to the hotel for a welcome dinner and overnight.
After breakfast visit Ho Chi Minh’s mausoleum, Vietnam’s most highly revered monument; the Presidential Palace; the One Pillar Pagoda; and the history museum. Then, it’s off to the Water Puppet Theatre for a performance with traditional wooden puppets. After lunch, stroll through Hanoi’s old quarter which teems with noodle vendors and patisseries. Later, drive to Haiphong where you embark the Odyssey.
Vinh Lan Ha Bay is a dreamscape archipelago of thousands of limestone islets and rocky outcroppings. Your ship anchors amid the dramatic formations that rise straight from the seabed. Board beautiful wooden vessels to explore these craggy monoliths where gnarled trees cling precariously to narrow clefts; you may choose to go ashore via Zodiac to swim in secluded coves.
This afternoon, Zodiacs take you ashore to visit the once notorious demilitarized zone (DMZ) at the 17th parallel, an arbitrary strip of land that demarcated North and South Vietnam from 1954 to 1975. View a bridge over the Ben Hai River and a labyrinth of extraordinary tunnels at nearby Vinh Moc which served both as a refuge for the villagers while the area was bombarded, and as a Viet Cong supply route.
Today enjoy a full-day excursion to the city of Hue, a World Heritage Site. Highlights include a visit to the picturesque Dong Ba Market and the vast moat-rimmed citadel, the Imperial City of the Nguyen Emperors, built between 1802 and 1945. After lunch cruise up the Perfume River aboard local “dragon boats” and visit the picturesque royal mausoleums of Tu Duc and Khai Dinh reflecting Chinese-inspired architectural styles.
This morning choose from three options: Explore Da Nang’s Cham Museum, a repository of sandstone carvings reflecting the Hindu styles of Champa. Visit My Son, the site of outdoor Cham ruins. Or, enjoy an immersion into Vietnamese cuisine, complete with a visit to the local market, a techniques workshop, and a lunch of traditional dishes that prepared with your chef.
After lunch, enjoy a walking tour in Hoi An. Historic 18th- and 19th-century homes, a Japanese bridge, a Chinese temple, silk shops, and small museums illustrating Hoi An’s cultural riches grace the winding lanes of this World Heritage Site.
The seldom-visited provincial capital of Binh Dinh province hosts a large and colorful coastal fishing fleet. Explore the area, visiting the spectacular twin Cham Towers, dating from the 11th century, as well as four other historic towers perched serenely on a hilltop adjacent to a Buddhist monastery. At the Quang Trung Museum, members of Vietnamese hill tribes perform superb martial arts demonstrations with music and dance—named an “intangible treasure” by UNESCO.
After sailing south arrive in Nha Trang with its lovely coastal setting, colorful hillside houses, and brightly painted boats. Travel to nearby islands for snorkeling along the striking coral reefs, or explore the well-preserved Cham Ponagar Temple complex with its impressive towers built between the 7th and 12th centuries. The shores of Van Phong Bay are lined with massive sand dunes and the picturesque fishing village of Port Dayot offers excellent photographic and birding opportunities.
After lunch on board, arrive in bustling Ho Chi Minh City and begin your exploration driving past Buddhist, Chinese, and Taoist temples on the way to visit the Presidential Palace — the site where the North Vietnamese tank crashed through its gates, signaling the end of the Vietnam War. Also visit the colorful and energetic markets in the Cholon Chinatown district.
Drive towards the Mekong Delta, passing through rice fields and along a busy highway with people heading to or from market. Travel to the My Tho area, famous for its coconut palms and orchards of mangos, bananas, and citrus fruits. Here board sampans to sail along the Mekong River, observing daily river life and the many different types of boats that use the river as a highway. After a lunch of local specialties return to Ho Chi Minh City.
Though this island is best known for its history as a penal colony, Con Son also possesses stunning scenery and a variety of unique flora and fauna. Today enjoy nature walks through lush vegetation and a tour of the old prison buildings.
Lecturers recap your experiences during an informative day at sea.
Today explore the island paradise of Phu Quoc. Known for its beautiful beaches, laid-back atmosphere, and excellent snorkeling, spend the morning discovering natural wonders, both above and below the warm, inviting waters. During lunch on board, sail for Sihanoukville. Here have free time to explore or dine ashore this evening.
Disembark this morning and board coaches for your drive to the bustling city of Phnom Penh where you will tour the stunning Presidential Palace complex. Also visit the Silver Pagoda—more than 5,000 silver tiles cover its floor—housing an extraordinary collection of Khmer artifacts, including dozens of Buddhas. Following lunch depart for the Tuol Sleng Museum, the infamous S21 Khmer Rouge security prison. This afternoon board your flight for Siem Reap and transfer to the Raffles Grand Hotel d’Angkor for dinner and overnight.
Depart early to view the sunrise at the World Heritage Site of Angkor Wat. Enjoy breakfast with magnificent views of the temple, then spend the morning exploring its soaring towers, courtyards, and tiered galleries. After lunch at your hotel visit Banteay Srei, the Citadel of Women, a temple dating from the 10th century. Perhaps the most beautiful temple in Siem Reap, it is remarkable for its fine pink-sandstone carvings relating episodes from the Ramayana.
After breakfast visit Ta Prohm Temple built in 1186 by Jayavarman VII to honor his family. Atmospheric and mystical, many of the temple monuments are enveloped by the sinuous roots of soaring silk cottonwood trees. Continue to Preah Khan Temple, surrounded by a moat and guarded by statues of warrior deities. In the afternoon have two options: explore wondrous Angkor Thom, the 12th-century capital built by Jayavarman VI encompassing the Bayon temple with its enormous mysterious faces; or opt to visit the Artisans d’Angkor Handicrafts Center to admire the beautiful metal works, silk weaving, and wood and stone carving from the region.
Transfer to the airport for your independent flight.