After receiving your complimentary welcome massage upon arrival at our 5 star spa resort, luxuriate in the sea side infinity pool. In our mountain valley 4 star eco-resort, walk out of your room onto your private secluded patio and thrill at the exotic feeling of showering outdoors, hidden from view amid gardens of lush green plants. Take a ride up a mountain in central Vietnam on a cable car rated as one of the 5 best in the world. At the top, explore Vietnam’s newest sensation: the Golden “2 Hands” Bridge. Imagine staying in a 300 year old traditional Vietnamese house once owned and slept in by the last princess of Vietnam! You won’t want to miss the continuation of luxurious thrills where you take an aerial tour of Ha Long Bay in a seaplane and actually land IN THE BAY (now a UNESCO World Heritage Site)! You’ll follow that with an overnight luxury cruise amid spectacular views of limestone karsts in a part of the bay that most tourists don’t get to see. All this while still being fully immersed in the real life of Vietnam.
This is a 16-day highlight tour of Vietnam comprised of a small, 4-8 person group. The entire tour will be a mix of urban and rural adventure and will highlight the people, culture, food, handicrafts and unbelievably beautiful landscape of Vietnam. While staying in 4 and 5 star accommodations throughout your trip, you’ll receive an introduction to Vietnamese street food, sample specialty foods of each region we visit and enjoy several multi-course home-cooked Vietnamese meals in traditional Vietnamese homes. You’ll even join a monk for a full vegetarian meal where all the dishes look, taste and have the texture of meat (yet we promise you they're vegetarian!). And it’s so delicious, even we non-vegetarians love it! You’ll have an opportunity to climb into and learn to row woven bamboo basket boats (not as easy as it looks but incredibly fun!), drive over the stunning Hai Van Pass overlooking the South China Sea, visit a charming fishing village that is not named in a single guidebook, get an up close look at Vietnamese lobster and rice farms and have the opportunity to ride a water buffalo and irrigate a rice paddy. You’ll visit Vietnamese markets and temples and learn all about the fascinating culture of the Vietnamese people. Try your hand at rolling your own incense and, if you wish, have some custom clothes and shoes tailored just for you at unbelievably affordable prices.
Only 8 people will be included on this luxury tour (but 4 guests are adequate for the tour to make). Are you a laid back, adventurous, fun-loving traveler who also appreciates the luxurious side of life? Then this tour has your name all over it. If you’re ready to go or if you’d like to learn more, please call or email us. We hope you’ll accept an invitation from Vietnam and Open Door Travel to create stories, memories and the experience of a lifetime.
HANOI / Arrival
Arrive in Hanoi. I will personally greet each of you at the airport and either accompany you to our hotel or, if flight times require that I stay to greet other guest, I will put you on a private van who will drive you to our hotel.
HANOI / Be Charmed by the Ancient Capital
Founded in 1010 as Thang Long, Hanoi's narrow tree-shaded streets are filled with lovely examples of French colonial architecture. Our first group lunch will introduce you to your fellow trip-mates and to one of Hanoi’s famous dishes. Safely immerse yourself in the Old Quarter’s comical and dizzying motorbike traffic as your cyclo (3-wheel bicycle taxi) driver wheels you through the charming narrow streets of the oldest part of the city. See where John McCain was held captive at fascinating Hoa Lo Prison and take in the beauty and peaceful atmosphere at the Temple of Literature, Vietnam’s first national university. Dinner will be at one of Anthony Bourdain’s favorite restaurants.
Day 2 - 3 MAI CHAU / Revel in Bucolic Country Life
We’ll travel by van to Mai Chau, a peaceful verdant valley surrounded by mountains. You’ll stay 3 nights in a 4 star eco-resort where your balcony looks out over lush rice fields and you have an outdoor shower on your private secluded patio out back. (A lavish indoor bathroom exists as well)
Group activities are intentionally minimal during our stay here to allow you to adjust from your flight but mostly to adapt your pace of life to the tranquil speed of village life. Enjoy a leisurely guided bike tour on flat terrain through several bucolic hamlets dotting Mai Chau’s peaceful valley. Immerse yourself in the easy-going pace of life here as you observe farmers tending their rice fields, children playing and water buffalo wallowing in swimming holes. Watch hens raising their chicks; enjoy the soothing sounds of frogs croaking and ducks quacking. Watch a local White Thai man demonstrate how to weave a variety of baskets used in everyday life. They’re so beautiful, most tourists view (and buy) them as souvenirs. You will receive one as gift to take home. Enjoy a delicious dinner cooked by one of my close friends who happens to be an amazing chef. She’ll treat you to mouthwatering White Thai traditional dishes at her lovely house surrounded by verdant rice fields. Wind down the day with an entertaining performance of traditional ethnic dances.
Day 4 PA CO / Black Hmong Village Life
We travel 1 hour to a remote mountain village - a hidden gem undiscovered by others - to immerse ourselves in the culture of a Black Hmong tribe. Take a batik lesson and have the opportunity to batik your own brocade cloth! You’ll particularly appreciate the material you’re working on after you see a demonstration of traditional brocade weaving done by hand on a loom. You’ll also see how the women dye the cloth with indigo and how the dye is made. We will leave your batiked cloth to be dyed. It will meet us back in Hanoi at the end of our trip for you to take home. You’ll go on a fascinating guided tour of this very traditional village where you’ll see hillside tea plantations, walk inside a traditional Black Hmong house and learn about its layout, observe a blacksmith forging traditional tools and visit the maker of musical instruments. Enjoy local Hmong delicacies in the home of two more of my dear friends. You’ll be laughing and smiling as you’re treated to a quite different performance of traditional Black Hmong dances - this time in a private home and with a group who will beg you to join in the fun.
Day 5 - 6 HANOI / Weird and Wonderful Spectacles
After a taste of country life, it’s back to the city for a bit longer before we head south. You’ll be hungry for lunch when we arrive which makes it a great time to go on a food tour! Take a ride on the back of a motorbike driven by one of Hanoi’s most qualified and well trained drivers to some hidden foodie gems throughout the city while you learn about the fascinating history of charming Hanoi, Vietnam’s first capital.
Ho Chi Minh, hero of the country and known belovedly to the Vietnamese as “Uncle Ho,” died in 1969. Inspired by the Russaian treatment of Lenin and Stalin, he was embalmed and his remains are kept on display in an airtight glass coffin for all eternity … or at least as long as the chemicals hold out. Marvel at this weird communist tradition as we visit his mausoleum. In the evening you’ll enjoy a completely different kind of spectacle … the new must-see show in Hanoi: The Quintessence of Tonkin. The show takes place right on a real lake with stages that raise and lower so the performers seem to glide on water. Part light show, part ballet, part spectacle, this musical amazement celebrates the ancient culture of North Vietnam.
Day 7 - 9 HUE / Dragons, Phoenix, Unicorns and Emporors
Fly to Hue, the ancient imperial capital of Vietnam. Its palaces, temples, and tombs evoke its past grandeur as home to emperors and mandarins. Over our 3 days here, we’ll visit the tomb of Khai Dinh, the last emperor to be buried in Vietnam as well as the Citadel, the former Imperial Palace. We’ll also explore some hidden gems such as City of Ghosts and small village temples where you’ll learn how to read and interpret the symbols of dragons, phoenix, bats and unicorns.
Day 10 BANA HILLS / The Golden “2 Hands” Bridge
Today’s adventure is a stop exclusive to the Luxurious Vietnam Trip. We’ll ride up a mountain in the world’s longest cable car voted by CNN as one of the top 5 in the world. At the summit, you’ll step out of Vietnam and into a life-sized replica of a 19th century quaint French Village including a giant cathedral, full Gothic architecture and turrets. Ba Na Hills is theme park that is both bizarre and delightful in equal measure. And we’re staying at the sophisticated hotel INSIDE the park which means when everyone else goes home at 5pm, you’ll have the entire place to yourself! (Kind of like getting to stay in Disneyworld after the park closes). But the main reason we’re here is to visit Vietnam’s newest sensation that’s all the rage these days on American Facebook posts … the Golden “2 Hands” Bridge which looks like something straight out of the Game of Thrones films. Get your camera ready!
Day 11 - 13 HOI AN / Enchantment at Every Turn
We step back into Vietnam (we never really left) and travel to Hoi An, an ancient town on the banks of the poetic Thu Bon River. Once a major Asian trading port from the 15th to the 19th centuries, the town is now a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Graceful, historic, poetic and charming are all words that aptly describe the atmosphere which remains just as it was in its very early days. Be prepared to be smitten. Hoi An is one giant photo opp!
We’ll spend 3 magical days here. In addition to exploring exotic temples, markets and stately venerable homes in the Ancient Town, you’ll visit a silk factory and learn how locals make silk thread from cocoons of silk worms. You’ll have a whole new appreciation for rice farming after you plow a rice paddy with a water buffalo and plant and harvest rice yourself. You’ll visit another UNESCO world heritage site - the famous Cham ruins of My Son, reclaimed from the devouring jungle 100 years ago by French hunters. Unlike most tourists, we’ll visit them at sunrise before busloads arrive so you can experience the sacred energy that drew the Cham people to build their temples here.
Day 14 - 16 QUY NHON / Secret Beach Time
After all the past days’ activities, wind down for a bit during 2 nights at a 5 star luxury resort spa. We’ll travel by train to get there. In your own private train cabin, your window essentially becomes a 6 hour movie screen on which the enchantment of Vietnam unfolds. When we arrive at the spa, you’ll be welcomed with a complimentary massage. The next day is yours to do as you please. You’ll have the option to row basket boats and do some preeminent shell collecting if that floats your boat (har har).
The next day is a full one as we travel to my secret beaches. At the first one, we’ll travel by boat with my friends Mai and Muoi to their floating fish farm where they raise tiger lobster, Southeast Asia’s most sought-after and expensive fish. If you’d like, you can have one for your lunch and Muoi will even put on his dive gear to go catch it for you! You’ll see the interesting way these creatures are fed during your up close tour. Then Mai fixes a very special meal you won’t soon forget. But save room!
After we leave Mai and Muoi we travel to the other secret beach and meet up with my monk friend, Master Thich Dao Thanh. He’ll give you a tour of his pagoda, chat with you about Buddhism and then treat you to another unforgettable meal. It’s entirely vegetarian but every plate contains mouth-wateringly delicious food that looks, tastes and has the texture of real meat!
Finally, we board a flight back to Hanoi where we’ll spend the night.
HANOI / Return Home
Those ending their tour today will have a free day in Hanoi until its time for your flight. A pre-arranged transport will take you to the airport for your flight home. If you’d like to stay an extra night in Hanoi for more shopping, exploration or if your flight doesn’t leave until the next day, please let us know. We’re happy to arrange an extra night at the hotel for you.
Day 17 HANOI / More City Favorites
Enjoy your free morning. In the afternoon, you’ll get to try one of my favorite Hanoi treats: coconut coffee in a cafe whose “communist chic” design recalls days of war-era paraphernalia, propaganda posters, vintage cameras and old newspapers. (They serve other versions of this delicious specialty if you don’t drink coffee.) Then we’ll go to one of my most cherished museums in the city: The Vietnamese Women’s Museum. It’s visually stimulating with a fascinating costume-heavy display on the many ethnic tribes of Vietnam. There’s also a powerful, sobering exhibition on women’s role in wartime and an exploration of the much-neglected subject of family life and maternity.
Day 18 HA LONG BAY / Cruising Through a Classic Photograph
Today’s the day you’ve waited for! Start the day with a once in a lifetime experience! We’ll board our seaplane at the Hanoi airport for a quick flight culminating in an 20 minute aerial tour of iconic Ha Long Bay. Cameras out for the photos and videos you’ll want to show everyone! When we land, it’s not on any old regular runway. We land IN Ha Long Bay! Spec-dang-tacular! Then you board your overnight luxury cruise ship and set sail amid those photos you just took from the air.
In addition to savoring the surreal scenery in the bay, you’ll also have options to explore a beautiful cave, visit a pearl farm and go squid fishing during your overnight cruise.
Day 19 HA LONG BAY and HANOI / Wrapping up the Trip of a Lifetime
You’ll continue on your cruise throughout the morning finally deboarding at noon. Return to Hanoi and enjoy some free time. Roam the quaint Old Quarter, enjoy some shopping or just kick back and relax. Say your goodbyes to fellow trip-mates over a farewell group dinner. Transports are included to take you from the hotel to the airport to catch your flight home. If you’d like to stay an extra night in Hanoi for more shopping time or if your flight doesn’t leave until the next day, please let us know. We’re happy to arrange an extra night at the hotel for you.