INSIDE VIETNAM: HUE AND HANOI
It's one spectacular attraction after another on this all-encompassing tour of three vastly different cities that present a treasure-trove of imperial palaces, ancient temples, cultural landmarks and other destinations where Vietnam shines.
After departing from the ship, you will transfer to ancient Hue (pronounced "Hway"), once the Imperial City of the Nguyen emperors, and tour the Royal Citadel. First constructed in 1805 and later renovated by numerous emperors, the Royal Citadel is massive and imposing, with a width of five miles and walls towering more than 19 feet high and 65 feet thick. As another layer of protection, the moat encircling the citadel is more than 75 feet wide.
It's a spectacular sight, especially at places such as the Noon Gate, where the emperors once made important announcements such as the beginning of the new year. Delving deeper into the citadel, you will also see the lavish Palace of Supreme, which has been restored to its original grandeur, and behold to the Imperial Enclosure, where the emperors' official functions were carried out. It is essentially a citadel within a citadel.
Then, embarking on a dragon boat, you will cruise down the languid Perfume River.
As mid-afternoon approaches, you will check in to the Hue Riverside Resort on the banks of the Perfume River. Here you will have lunch and relax a bit until your afternoon touring begins.
Continuing on, you will visit the Thien Mu or Heavenly Lady Pagoda. Constructed in 1601, it is one of the holiest pagodas in Vietnam and has become a symbol for the city of Hue. You may see gardeners attending the bonsai trees or monks delivering incantations in the main temple.
Next you will visit the grandiose tomb of Tu Duc, the emperor of Vietnam from 1848-1883. Although he was a dedicated Confucian, he had more than 100 wives and led an unusually indulgent lifestyle. In an attempt to foil grave robbers, his body was never interred inside the tomb, and all those involved in his burial were beheaded. The location of his body and his personal treasures remains a mystery.
Your day concludes with a visit to the Conical Hat Village, or Phu Cam Village, in Phuoc Vinh, where most villagers live and practice their craft. Made from rattan, palm leaves and bamboo, these colorful hats often depict Hue City scenes that include the Truong Tien Bridge, Thien Mu Pagoda, Ngu Binh Mountain, a boat on the Perfume River, or the charming girls of Hue City. In addition to offering protection from the sun and rain, these hats are somewhat of a fashion statement among the women of Hue City, and serve as an endless source of inspiration for poets and writers.
Back at the Hue Riverside resort you will enjoy dinner and spend the evening.
Today's first attraction is a workshop in the Marble Mountains, where you will observe artists carving beautiful sculptures and other art objects out of marble and sandstone. It can be a slow, painstaking process often taking months to complete one piece.
Upon reaching Hoi An, which was Vietnam's principal trading center in the 17th and 18th centuries, you will find a town with a fascinating mix of architectural influences, including Chinese, Japanese and Portuguese. A guided walk takes you through a wealth of attractions that include a traditional local market, Hoi An museum, merchant's house, and the Phuoc Kien Temple, which was devoted to a sea goddess. During free time, you can explore further before driving to your lunch venue and then Denang.
An important seaport, densely populated Denang is wonderfully bustling. Another form of art awaits you in the esteemed Cham Museum, which contains the world's largest collection of sculpture created by the Cham people in the 4th to the 14 centuries.
A different side of Vietnam will emerge to the north in Hanoi, which you will reach on a flight inland. Following dinner in Hanoi, your introduction to the city begins with a traditional water puppet performance, an art form that dates back to the 11th century. The daily life of rural people is usually reflected in these unique shows that use a shallow pool of water as the stage. Even the puppeteers are in water, standing out of sight manipulating pole-and-string apparatuses.
After the performance, you will check into the lakeside Daewoo Hotel for the evening.
Boasting glorious French colonial architecture and numerous urban lakes, Hanoi is a gem that is more reserved and relaxed than most cities to the south. During your orientation tour, you will see an enormous variety of attractions, starting with imposing Ba Dinh Square, where Ho Chi Minh lies in state, preserved in a glass coffin.
Walking on, you will pass the former French governor's residence and the tranquil lotus ponds at the entrance to Ho Chi Minh's cottage, a simple teak residence designed in the style of the ethnic hill tribe homes. Further on, you will come to the peaceful One Pillar Pagoda, a historic Buddhist temple.
The next two attractions stand in stark contrast. First, there is the Temple of Literature, which dates from 1070, and an adjacent national university built shortly afterwards. The courtyards are so serene and comforting you can easily imagine ancient men of letters reciting their poetry here. Next, you will visit to the gruesome Hoa Lo Prison, also known as the Hanoi Hilton. The French originally built it in the late 1890s to house political prisoners, and during the Vietnam War it was used to hold POWs, the most famous being John McCain, who later became a U.S. Senator.
Continuing on, you will drive past Hoan Kiem Lake in the center of Hanoi, where you will see the Ngoc Son Pagoda perched on a tiny island. The lake supports a huge population of tortoises, which are considered sacred. Upon reaching Hanoi's labyrinthine Old Quarter, you will have free time to explore. Be sure to notice the names of the streets, an homage to the tradesmen that originally worked here, giving rise to names such as Tin Street, Paper Street and Silk Street. While there are all sorts of worthwhile sights such as historic temples and narrow tube houses, leave time for shopping, too.
In time, you will drive to Ha Long Bay and rejoin the ship.
Overland Program Step by Step:
Please note: The order of sites visited may vary to avoid congestion. The flights and times indicated are approximate, given here for general reference purposes, and subject to change.
8:30am Disembark the ship and transfer to Hue
10:15am Visit the Hue citadel
11:15am Take a boat ride on the Perfume River.
12:00pm Lunch at Hue Riverside Resort restaurant. Choice of one soft drink or one local beer or one bottle of water
1:00pm Check in to Hue Riverside Resort
3:00pm Leave the resort and visit Thien Mu Pagoda
3:30pm Transfer to king Tu Duc's tomb
3:45pm Visit king Tu Duc's tomb
4:45pm Visit the conical hat village
5:00pm Back to the resort
7:00pm Dinner at Resort. Choice of one soft drink or one local beer or one bottle of water.
Overnight at the Hue Riverside Resort or similar hotel
7:00am Breakfast at the hotel
8:00am Depart from the hotel
10:15am Visit a marble workshop
10:45am Depart for the town of Hoi An
11:00am Tour of Hoi An and free time
12:00pm Lunch at a local restaurant Choice of one soft drink or one local beer or one bottle of water
1:45pm Visit the Han Market and XQ Workshop
2:45pm Visit the Cham Museum
3:15pm Transfer to the airport for flight to Hanoi (VN 1516, flight and times subject to change)
4:30pm Flight to Hanoi
5:40pm Arrival in Hanoi
6:00pm Arrive at Noi Bai airport in Hanoi and transfer to a restaurant for
dinner Choice of one soft drink or one local beer or one bottle of water
8:00pm Enjoy a Water Puppet Show
9:00pm Check in at your hotel
Overnight at the Daewoo Hotel or similar hotel
7:00am Breakfast at the hotel
8:00am Transfer to Ba Dinh Square
8:20am Visit the outside of the Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum complex
8:40am Walk to the Stilt House and visit
9:00am Walk to One Pillar Pagoda and visit
9:10am Drive to the Temple of Literature and visit
10:00am Drive to Hoa Lo Prison
10:15am Tour the prison
11:00am Drive to Hoan Kiem Lake
11:15am Visit Ngoc Som Temple
11:30am Transfer to a local restaurant
11:45am Lunch Choice of one soft drink or one local beer or one bottle of water
12:30pm Free time in the Old Quarter
1:30pm Drive to Ha Long Bay
5:30pm Re-join the ship
Expected Weather: 30-34 Celsius (86-93 degrees Fahrenheit)
What to Bring: Casual clothes, good walking shoes, one overnight bag per person
Currency: U.S. dollar or Vietnamese dong
Electricity: 220 Volt
Luggage: One suitcase of 20kg (44lbs). Additional baggage or overweight baggage fees will be each guest's responsibility.
Documents and Visa Requirements: Passports required
Accommodation: Royal Riverside Resort in Hue or similar and Daewoo in Hanoi or similar
We will only substitute hotels in unforeseen situations. If similar hotels are substituted, they will be of equal ratings and standards.
"Pack one small overnight bag for your overland trip with light clothing. No
"U.S. dollars are popular and accepted everywhere. One U.S. dollar = 20,500
"Take sun protection, a hat and comfortable shoes
"Shorts are accepted at all destinations
"Times are approximate and order of sites may vary
"Please do not check in your valuables, documents, portable computers, cameras, or electronics. They should always be in your handbag.
"Insect repellent, sun block and a hat are very important for this trip.
"One-night accommodation at Hue Riverside Resort in Hue or similar
"One-night accommodation at Daewoo Hotel in Hanoi or similar
"Two breakfasts, three lunches, two dinners with one local beer or one mineral water or one soft drink.
"Transfers in air-conditioned buses and guided sightseeing as indicated in the itinerary
"Bottled water on the buses
"Cruise on the Perfume River
"Domestic flight from Da Nang to Hanoi
"Any meals or drinks not listed above.
"Mini-bar consumption in the rooms, personal laundry, telecommunications, and other items of a personal nature, including gratuities to guides and drivers.
Please note: Land programs that encompass multiple days ashore customarily include extensive and prolonged activity, while those of shorter durations typically have more moderate activity levels. However, each program varies and participants should be prepared to negotiate a mixture of surfaces which may include: inclines, cobblestones, sand, and gravel or natural paths. There may also be a need to climb steps or stairs on occasion. Guests who utilize a wheelchair and those with mobility concerns are advised to check with the cruise line in advance to see if any portion of the tour program may not be considered suitable for their individual situation. Weather appropriate clothing; hats; sunglasses; and flat, comfortable walking shoes are generally recommended.