Set off on a journey into the heart of Indochina, where rural villages, big cities, ancient temples, and French colonial cities where cultural and historical significance can be found around every corner. From the modern Ho Chi Minh City to Hanoi and Angkor, experience diverse landscapes during this 15-day expedition. Be joined by National Geographic experts and meet with National Geographic grantees working to conserve endangered wildlife in Vietnam and join an archaeologist to explore the ancient, crumbling temples at mystical Angkor.
Explore Angkor Wat with a local archaeologist, and go behind the scenes at the Angkor Conservation Centre to view Khmer artefacts that are off-limits to the public.
Have lunch with two former Viet Cong soldiers at their home, hearing gripping stories about the Vietnam War and life in the famed Cu Chi Tunnels.
Discover the pristine beaches and floating villages of Lan Ha Bay, a seldom visited part of Ha Long Bay, and spend the night aboard a traditional-style wooden junk.
Encounter critically endangered species at Save Vietnam’s Wildlife rescue centre in Cúc Phương National Park and hear from local conservationists about National Geographic-funded research into pangolin trafficking.
Itinerary - 15 Days
1 Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam
Arrive in Ho Chi Minh City (formerly Saigon) and transfer to our hotel.
Hôtel Des Art Saigon
2 Ho Chi Minh City
Spend the day exploring Ho Chi Minh City on a guided tour. Visit the War Remnants Museum; wander the stately Reunification Palace, once the seat of the South Vietnamese government; and spot the building from which U.S. citizens were evacuated by helicopter as Saigon fell to the North Vietnamese army. Admire the ornate French colonial architecture of the Central Post Office and City Hall, and delve into bustling Ben Thanh market, one of the oldest and largest markets in the country. Navigate stalls selling everything from electronics and handbags to fruits and spices, and replenish yourself with a tumbler of fresh sugarcane juice. Later, gather for a welcome reception and dinner.
Hôtel Des Art Saigon (B/L/D)
3 Cu Chi Tunnels
Descend into the famous Cu Chi tunnels, a 155-mile network of underground passageways used by the Viet Cong during the Vietnam War. The tunnels connected schools, residents, and hospitals, creating an intricate subterranean city that played an instrumental role in the eventual victory of the North. After emerging from the bunkers, pay a visit to two Viet Cong veterans at their home, and hear their extraordinary tales of the war.
Hôtel Des Art Saigon (B/L)
Fly to Hanoi, the capital of Vietnam. Stroll tree-lined boulevards past serene lakes and charming pagodas, as you acquaint yourself with this atmospheric city. See the final resting place of Ho Chi Minh on a visit to the imposing mausoleum erected in his honour, and soak up the lively Old Quarter, where vendors hawk all manner of trinkets and the sizzle of roadside woks mingles with the beeping of whizzing motorbikes. Duck past a moving train on Hanoi’s peculiar “train street,” where a railway track snakes through a densely packed neighbourhood in the heart of the Old Quarter. Finish the afternoon with draft beers at a typical makeshift street bar.
Sofitel Legend Metropole Hanoi (B/D)
Take a meditative walk around Ngoc Son Temple, set in the middle of an emerald-green lake. Sip on a Vietnamese iced coffee, and sample a mouth-watering banh mi—a spicy sandwich served in a split baguette. Continue your exploration of the eclectic Old Quarter, moving from the Gothic St. Joseph’s Cathedral to a colonial-era prison, known by American POWs as the Hanoi Hilton. Stop at the 11th-century Temple of Literature, Vietnam’s first university; and visit the sprawling Imperial Citadel of Thang Long, the historic seat of the Vietnamese monarchy and a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Sofitel Legend Metropole Hanoi (B/L)
6 Ninh Binh
Venture south from Hanoi to Ninh Binh, a rustic region in the Red River Delta nicknamed “Ha Long Bay on land.” Here we'll be joined by National Geographic grantee Le Khac Quyet, a leading Vietnamese wildlife biologist and avid photographer who will share updates on his latest research. Hop aboard a sampan, a flat-bottomed Chinese boat, paddling past lush rice fields and towering limestone cliffs. Tread over a stone bridge to reach the incense-infused Bich Dong pagoda, perched on three rocky outcrops. Later, explore the Van Long Nature Reserve by bamboo rowboat. Spot scores of bird species as you drift along the peaceful, grassy wetland, and search for the endangered Delacour’s langur in one the primate’s last wild refuges.
Emeralda Resort Ninh Binh (B/L/D)
7 Cuc Phuong National Park
Spend the day in the misty, lush Cuc Phuong National Park, the oldest and largest natural reserve in Vietnam. Meet the director of the Endangered Primate Rescue Centre for a behind-the-scenes tour. Visit the Save Vietnam’s Wildlife rescue centre, where orphaned and injured pangolins, civets, mongooses, and other small carnivores are rehabilitated before being released back into the wild. Learn about a project to reduce the demand for pangolins, the world's most trafficked animal, spearheaded by the centre’s founder: National Geographic grantee, Nguyen Van Thai.
Emeralda Resort Ninh Binh (B/L/D)
8 Ha Long Bay
Head north to Ha Long Bay and explore this mystical World Heritage Site on an intimate, traditional-style wooden junk. Cruise serene, turquoise waters scattered with tiny forested islands and fantastic karst formations, and go off the beaten path at secluded Lan Ha Bay. Enjoy a quiet swim or kayak ride at the pristine Ba Trao Dao beach before returning to our ship to watch a spectacular sunset over the Gulf of Tonkin. At dinnertime, learn to cook up local specialities with the ship’s chef, and stargaze from the deck before turning in to your deluxe cabin.
9 Ha Long Bay/Luang Prabang, Laos
Rise early for a relaxing tai chi session on deck while the sun lights up the bay and the neighbouring floating villages stir to life. Discover the magical Toi and Sang (Dark and Bright) caves by canoe, inhaling the heavy perfume of rock-strung orchids and keeping an eye out for scampering monkeys. After a hearty brunch back on the ship, transfer to Hanoi airport to catch a flight to Luang Prabang.
The Luang Say Residence (B/L/D)
10 Luang Prabang
Experience stunning Luang Prabang, nestled into jungle-covered hills at the confluence of the Mekong and Nam Khan Rivers. Visit the area’s most revered Buddhist temple, and stop by the National Museum—formerly the Royal Palace—to see the golden Prabang Buddha statue for which the town is said to be named. Later, immerse yourself in a graceful baci ceremony at the home of a village chief. In this uniquely Laotian ritual, cotton cords are tied around the participants’ wrists to wish them good fortune, health, and prosperity.
The Luang Say Residence (B/L/D)
11 Luang Prabang
Venture south of Luang Prabang for a glimpse of rural Laos. Visit the dewy mountain villages of the Hmong and Khmu ethnic groups, and chat with the village chiefs. Hike to the ethereal Kuang Si Waterfall, its milky blue water gushing into tiered limestone pools. Enjoy a cookout lunch, prepared by locals with fresh ingredients. Later, see endangered Asiatic black bears at the Tat Kuang Si Bear Rescue Centre, and hear from a conservationist about National Geographic-funded research assessing the threats faced by these gentle animals.
The Luang Say Residence (B/L)
12 Luang Prabang/Siem Reap, Cambodia
Rise at dawn to witness the age-old Laotian tradition of Tak Bat, the daily almsgiving to Buddhist monks. Watch as hundreds of saffron-robed monks walk quietly through the streets collecting offerings of rice, fruit, and flowers from the smiling locals. Spend the rest of the day at leisure before flying to Siem Reap.
Jaya House River Park (B/D)
Delve into the magnificent World Heritage Site of Angkor with an archaeologist as your guide. Built in the first half of the 12th century in the depths of the Cambodian jungle, the mysterious capital of the Khmer Empire is replete with massive towers, carved murals, and enchanting crumbled courtyards. At the walled city of Angkor Thom, wander the Bayon temple and the Terrace of the Elephants, or explore the haunting Ta Prohm, tangled in thick banyan roots. Tour the Angkor Conservation Centre and go behind the scenes with the centre’s director to view thousands of priceless statues recovered from the archaeological site. Take in the sunset as it dips behind the spires of the mesmerizing Angkor Wat temple, dedicated to the Hindu god Vishnu.
Jaya House River Park (B/L/D)
14 Banteay Srei/Kampong Khleang
Set out for Banteay Srei, an exquisite 10th-century Hindu temple north of Angkor Wat. On the way, stop at the Golden Silk Pheach Preservation Centre, a Cambodian NGO working to preserve ancient Khmer silk production techniques. Later, drive to Kampong Khleang village and drift down in a wooden boat to the great Tonle Sap lake, discovering a boisterous floating city complete with markets, clinics, schools, and even basketball courts and karaoke bars. Gather for our farewell reception, and take in a traditional Cambodian dance and music performance over dinner.
Jaya House River Park (B/L/D)
15 Siem Reap
Transfer to the airport for your return flight home. (B/L)
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