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We had a great time.

All of the guides were on time, very well informed and easy people to be with.

We have seen so many things and eaten in local places where we would never have gone by ourselves.

We wouldn't hesitate to recommend you and if you would like more details of our adventures or a statement of recommendation let us know."

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"Just wanted to thank you for booking our holiday to Koh Lanta.

Everything was perfect and I can thoroughly recommend the Layana Resort and the island of Koh Lanta to any one who wants a laid back, peaceful, non commercialised holiday."

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Everything went without a problem. Great time, great pics, etc.

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Vietnam Insight - 13 Days

Immersing you in a new culture from an insiders’ point of view, this Vietnam Insight tour offers discerning travellers an unforgettable journey of discovery.

Beyond normal sightseeing, we showcase the country through the eyes of specialist guides, introduce you to intriguing locals and lead you off the beaten path to the heart of Vietnam.

At the end of each day, you’ll relax in the lap of luxury with stays at classy hotels and onboard elegant boats.

Day 1 - Arrive in Ho Chi Minh City

Upon arrival your guide will greet you and transfer by private car through the city to your hotel for check-in.

Overnight in Ho Chi Minh City

Day 2 - Ho Chi Minh City By Vintage Vespa (B,L,D)

This half-day tour takes a unique look at familiar and not-so-familiar landmarks in modern-day Ho Chi Minh City, to reveal the city’s culture, architecture, religious practices and fascinating history. The tour begins in the cool early morning with a pickup at your hotel. Our first stop is Tao Dan Park to catch the bird lovers club (morning only, 0600 – 0900). Enjoy a local coffee while your tour guide explains about the history and practice of keeping birds in Saigon.

The next stop is the monument of Thich Quang Duc, a Vietnamese Mahayana Buddhist monk who burned himself to death on June 11, 1963 to protest against the persecution of Buddhists by South Vietnam’s Ngo Dinh Diem administration.

Then take a quick stop at the colorful Ho Thi Ky flower market before riding to the Funeral Home to get to know about Vietnamese funeral ceremonies & customs.

Roll through Chinatown to Nhi Phu temple built in the end of 17th century by Chinese immigrants from Fukkien Province. Although the exact construction date is unknown, an inscription on the pagoda's ancient bell dates the pagoda to pre-1765. Nhi Phu Temple is built in a “Khẩu” (gate) architectural style with an open yard in the center. Its roof is covered with tubular tiles lined with bas-relief mosaics made from broken ceramics, depicting the eight immortals of Taoism including apricot trees, orchids, bamboo and of course dragons and phoenix.

Continue with a short walk through the alley full of tailor’s supplies. Then back to Nhi Phu temple to return to district one by bike. On the way stop at a Chinese Medicine shops for an explanation about “Thuốc Bắc - medicine from herbs” or”Thuốc tàu – medicine from China.”

Leaving Chinatown, we drive through the tunnel to District 2 where we see downtown Saigon from a different perspective and we have a chance to see a developing Ho Chi Minh City.

Visiting a local market before heading back to District 1 for a twin set of neighboring landmarks: the Post Office, noting the architecture and in particular the map of Saigon that shows where this modern city has come from, followed by Cathedral of Notre Dame (“Our Lady”).

Moving then to the remarkable Reunification Palace and the previous CIA Office before a drive down Dong Khoi Street (it means “people’s revolution”) allows us to correct a modern myth. We reveal the place where, in 1975, during the dying days of the former regime, the iconic photograph was taken of a helicopter lifting people out of Saigon.

A stop at the historic Opera House (now the Municipal Theatre) lets us talk about the history the square represents from the time it was the main road into the Bat Quay, to the French invasion, to the filming of Phil Noyce’s “The Quiet American”.

The final stop is an outside view of HCM City People’s Committee (formerly Hôtel de Ville) which is one of the most photographed buildings in Vietnam - notable for its gardens, ornate facade and elegant interior lit with crystal chandeliers. End the tour at your hotel.

For lunch try some traditional Saigon fare at ‘Com Nieu Sai Gon’. Described by the celebrity chef Anthony Bourdain as “my favorite place in town”, watch as clay-pot-baked rice is ‘flung’ across the room by the unassuming waiters.

This afternoon step off the beaten track and take a stroll to the oldest quarter of the city (car at your disposal should you need it). Explore Saigon’s well-kept secret - Antiques Street (Le Cong Kieu), where genuine antiques are mixed in with genuine fakes: Aladdin oil lamps, carved wooden chests, Marelli copper fans, opium pipes, abacuses, etc. You can also find military cast-offs from the Vietnam War, and if you look hard enough, relics from the French Indochina era.

Follow a typical street to reach the Beaux-Arts Museum, a superb neo-colonial building home to various modern arts. Explore the art galleries surrounding the museum, where local artists gladly display their talent. A visit in Ho Chi Minh City would not be complete without a taste of its best ice cream - Fanny’s, a quaint little French atmospheric parlor, before continuing on to the trendy boutiques and shops of Thon That Thiep Street.

This evening, a private home dinner in Ho Chi Minh City is the perfect way to gain deeper insight into Vietnamese culture and cuisine. Located in suburban Ho Chi Minh City your host family will cook you a great meal, whilst here you can learn more on how the locals really live and eat and this intimate interaction is sure to leave you with lasting memories! Your escort guide will be a local university student which adds to the experience.

Overnight in Ho Chi Minh City

Day 3 - Ho Chi Minh City - Mekong Delta (B,L,D)

After breakfast, depart for the Mekong Delta. Leave the hustle and bustle of the city behind as you travel through Vietnam's picturesque countryside with its rice paddies and rural villages. Upon arrival in the Delta board the private 'Song Xanh', modelled after a traditional sampan. The boat's small size allows you to discover the smaller canals and tributaries of this region.

Your visit includes the home of Mr. Huyen Thuy Le, a character from the novel ‘The Lover’ by Marguerite Duras as well as Thien Hau Pagoda. Return to the boat for lunch. Continue to Can Tho stopping en-route at a Cao Dai Temple. Back on board your sampan, continue to Can Tho stopping en-route at a Cao Dai Temple. Cao Daism is indigenous to South Vietnam and the colorful and unusual murals that cover the temple's interior will blind you with their brilliance.

Before sunset, the last stop is at a splendid 19th century house where an unforgettable candlelight dinner will be served. After dinner, proceed for one hour to Can Tho where your sampan will be moored for the night.

Overnight aboard the Song Xanh Boat.

Day 4 - Mekong Delta - Ho Chi Minh City - Danang - Hoi An (B)

As you cross the Mekong this morning on the way to Cai Rang Floating Market, take in traditional sights such as rice barges, wooden ship building yards and even fruit drying along the Mekong's banks.

After visiting the colorful floating market, you will return to Ho Chi Minh City’s Tan Son Nhat Airport for the flight to central Vietnam. From the Danang airport, it’s a 30-minute drive to the ancient port town of Hoi An. Despite the passing of 200 years and the ravages of weather and war, the center of Hoi An remains much the same as it was in its heyday.

The remainder of the day at leisure.

Overnight in Hoi An.

Day 5 - Hoi An (B,L,D)

Spend time with a local farming family to learn about their daily lifestyle and to discover the flavors of fresh Vietnamese cuisine. Bike along shady lanes to the village of Tra Que and join the farmers as they work on their vegetable garden. Join in at making tam huu, a local delicacy, at the end of today’s excursion.

Pick up from hotel and from here ride a bicycle to a local farm in Tra Que Village (depending on the location of your hotel you may be able to cycle directly). Take a trip around the vegetable garden and join the farmers in preparing the land and fertilizing it with seaweed. Continue gardening activities such as raking, sowing, watering greens, picking greens etc. After farming activities you will be shown how to prepare tam huu, a local delicacy before sitting down for a home cooked meal including banh xeo a specialty savory pancake wrapped in rice paper before the ride back to Hoi An.

A walking tour is the best way to see this marvelous town. Visit the former merchants’ homes, the 400 year-old Japanese Covered Bridge and the colorful market. Sample the town’s delicate cuisine with lunch at the famed Brother’s Cafe.

Dinner will at one of Hoi An’s best restaurants which serves original and creative cuisine that can only be described as Vietnam-Latin American-Japanese fusion. With a combination of refreshing flavors, beautiful presentations and a relaxing atmosphere this eatery has one the heart of many loyal and happy customers.

Overnight in Hoi An

Day 6 - Hoi An - Hue (B,L)

Morning at leisure before leaving Hoi An for Hue for the 3-hours drive to Hue. The scenic route passes through Danang where you will visit the Cham museum that has collected and exhibited the finest collection of Cham statues and works of art. After your visit, continue the drive over the Pass of Ocean Clouds and dropping down to the wonderfully photogenic fishing village of Lang Co. Then, you will reach Hue, the former imperial capital of Vietnam, to visit the Citadel – the ancient Forbidden City from where the Nguyen Dynasty ruled between 1802 and 1945.

Enjoy lunch at Ancient Hue restaurant

Overnight in Hue.

Day 7 - Hue (B,L)

Rise for an early breakfast followed by a visit to the city’s vibrant Dong Ba Market to see it’s abundance of fresh produce. It was in Hue that royal chefs developed the more elaborate dishes of Vietnamese cuisine. Continue to the Imperial Citadel where the Nguyen Dynasty ruled between 1802 and 1945. After exploring the ruins of this wonderful monument, depart to the Hue Royal Fine Arts Museum which is housed within the former Dien Long An Royal Palace.

Enjoy a lunch at the private ‘garden house’ known locally as ‘nha vuon’ of one Hue's most famous architects. This traditional style house, which is set in a large and attractive formal garden has connections with the ancient Hue Royal Imperial Court. The traditional architecture has long been associated with the natural environment and the ancient belief of ‘feng-shui’. On arrival you’ll be greeted in the foyer of this magnificent house with a traditional Vietnamese welcome. The lady of the house will personally prepare an extraordinary Vietnamese meal which is served privately in the traditional manner in the private gardens of her home.

Following your meal continue to the Mausoleum of Tu Duc, built decades before its occupant's death the tomb was used as a palace retreat before the Emperor’s final resting place. At the end of the day visit the tomb of Khai Dinh which is traditional Vietnamese in design with a European touch making it unique from the other tombs. In the afternoon return to your hotel.

Optional alternative afternoon tour (in replace of visit to either Tu Duc or Khai Dinh Tombs): If you want to explore beyond the tombs hop aboard a cycle for a tour of the ‘local’ part of Hue’s citadel where the daily life of the city’s inhabitants can be observed.

Evening at leisure

Overnight in Hue.

Day 8 - Hue - Hanoi (B,L,D)

After a morning at your leisure, transfer to the airport for a short flight to Hanoi, Vietnam’s capital. Upon arrival, your guide and private car will meet you and transfer you to your hotel for check-in.

Lunch is served in a breathtaking restored colonial villa.

After lunch, enjoy an insider’s tour of the Long Bien Bridge (originally name Doumer Bridge) which was built in 1902 by Sir Gustave Eiffel. Take a walking tour of this fascinating structure to learn more on how this bridge helped shape Hanoi’s future.

This afternoon continue to West Lake and one of the oldest Buddhist pagodas in Hanoi, Tran Quoc, and the nearby Taoist temple of Quan Thanh which dates from the Ly Dynasty.

Dine tonight at one of Hanoi’s best restaurants.

Overnight in Hanoi

Day 9 - Hanoi (B,L)

Hit the streets of Hanoi for a full day street food tour and cooking class with an American chef/culinary instructor and food writer. A Hanoi resident and the author of five cookbooks, your specialist guide for the day leads gastronomic adventure tours in Latin America and Southeast Asia.

Start the day with the locals feasting on Hanoi’s celebrated beef and rice noodle soup, Pho. During breakfast, discuss an overview of the Vietnamese food scene, particularly in Hanoi, and the upcoming day’s activities. Continue to a local market within the city to learn about and taste some of the ingredients used in the local cuisine and to watch the buying and selling rituals of a Vietnamese market.

Your culinary expert will introduce you to some of the vendors, explain about the ingredients for sale and assist you with purchasing items to take home (if desired). Many photo opportunities will be available in this bustling, vibrant and colorful scene. Next have a Vietnamese ca phe (coffee) or tra (tea) with the locals at one of the many sidewalk cafes in the historic French Quarter. Drive to Truc Bach lake for a snack of Phở Cuốn, a grilled beef and rice noodle roll.

From here visit a neighborhood market near the Temple of Literature. This is a smaller market where your culinary expert shops almost daily. You will have a chance to visit more closely with some of his vendor friends and to learn even more about the food.

Lunch at one of Hanoi’s best bún chả establishments, Bún Chả Chanh, open only a few hours in the afternoon, this place is run by a couple of sisters and uses real wood for the cooking and they still fan the fire by hand instead of the ubiquitous electric fans. Situated down a narrow lane, you will sit on tiny stools at low plastic tables along with the regular crowd of bún chả aficionados and enjoy traditional grilled pork and rice vermicelli noodles with fresh herbs and greens like true Hanoian. Very few foreigners ever find this eatery so it is a very special treat.

A final stop at one of Hanoi’s renowned Bia Hoi, where they serve fresh draft beer and tasty snacks. These “pubs” are traditional favorite social gathering spots as well as watering holes during the afternoons and evenings throughout Hanoi. Here we will sit at low-slung, plastic tables on small stools and rub elbows with the locals, drink some bia, have a snack or two (if you still have room for eating) and talk about our day. You will also give you some recommendations as to dining around Hanoi and the rest of the country. In the late afternoon transfer back to your hotel.

Dinner is free this evening.

Overnight in Hanoi

Day 10 - Hanoi - Halong Bay (B,L,D)

After breakfast leave Hanoi for an overnight boat trip on Halong Bay. Journey there through the rich farmlands of the Red River Delta, observe everyday life of Vietnamese villagers as they work the rice fields, take pigs to the market on bicycles and plough the fields with their water buffaloes. Arrive in Halong City late morning and board your traditional wooden junk for the overnight journey into the Bay. En-route lunch will be served. Following cruise by rock formations with such names as Sail, Dog and Dinh Huong (incense pot).

Towards the end of the day set anchor for the night. As the sun sets over the bay dinner is served on board with fresh seafood, salads, and fruits.

Overnight on Halong Bay.

Day 11 - Halong Bay - Hanoi (B)

On your return to Halong City enjoy a wholesome brunch as your boat weaves through strange-shaped limestone rock formations. Upon disembarkation your driver will meet you for the transfer back to Hanoi. *As an option visit one of the oldest pagodas in Vietnam ‘But Thap’ on the way back to Hanoi.

The rest of the afternoon and evening free at leisure.

Overnight in Hanoi.

Day 12 - Hanoi - Duong Lam - Hanoi (B,L,D)

Depart your hotel at 0830 and travel west of Hanoi to Duong Lam village, a purely agricultural village of the northern Red River Delta which still preserves many hundred-year-old houses. Visit Mong Phu temple in Mong Phu commune - the only hamlet whose original village entrance remains intact. Continue on through the narrow alleys to see the old laterite houses which make up this charming village.

For lunch enjoy a local style meal in a 100-year old house. After your meal, continue driving to Mia Pagoda (another hamlet of Duong Lam), built in the 15th century. There are around 287 statues of all sizes here, among them are famous sculptures such as the statue of Buddha and the statues of the ‘Eight Vajra Deities’. Then, visit Ngo Quyen temple and Phung Hung temple, places dedicated to two national heroes - Ngo Quyen and Phung Hung.

On the way back to Hanoi stop at Tay Phuong Pagoda. The pagoda offers beautiful architecture and ancient and unique sculptures. It was one of the first pagodas built in Vietnam and has magnificent dragons and demons carved into the wooden roof. From here continue back to Hanoi, a 45-minute drive.

Your farewell dinner will be held in the heart of Hanoi’s Old Quarter in the home of a true Hanoian who leant her culinary skills from her grandmother who used to cook for the French elite in the 1930’s.

Overnight in Hanoi.

Day 13 - Hanoi Departure (B)

Today is departure day. You’re private car and guide will be at your disposal to enjoy some free time for last purchases or simply relax before your transfer to Hanoi’s Noi Bai Airport for onward flight.

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