Arrive in Hanoi, transfer to hotel check-in. The rest of day is at leisure.
Day 2 Hanoi City tour – Ca Tru Singing (B,L,D)
After breakfast, our morning tour includes Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum (façade only), the One Pillar Pagoda, Hoan Kiem Lake, Ngoc Son Temple and the marvelous Confucian Temple of Literature. Lunch at local restaurant. Afternoon, enjoy 1-hour pedicab ride through Hanoi’s Old Quarters.
After dinner at local restaurant, we enjoy Vietnamese ca tru, recognized by UNESCO as Intangible Cultural Heritage in 2009. Ca trù is a complex form of sung poetry found in the north of Viet Nam using lyrics written in traditional Vietnamese poetic forms. (Show from 8pm to 9 pm). Transfer back to hotel.
Day 3 Hoa Binh – Giang Mo village – Thay Pagoda (B,L)
At 8:00am, we take 2.5-hour drive to Hoa Binh - a lush, mountainous province about 75km South-West of Hanoi and home of colorful hill-tribe people like the Muong, Hmong, Thai, and Dzao. In Hoa Binh we visit Giang Mo village where we will have a chance to experience the distinct culture and the daily activities of the Muong people. We will be entertained by their unique “gong” music shows while sipping their local special whiskey “Chuoi Rung”. The highlight of the tour would be to their spectacular stilted homes which are hand-crafted with local hardwood and palm-leaf thatch roofing. We visit a local home where we will see women sitting by the looms with beautiful pieces of brocade weaving. Have lunch in town and visit the Muong’s cultural Heritage Museum in the afternoon before driving back to Hanoi. On the return drive we visit Thay Pagoda, a Buddhist temple located at the foot of Sai Son Mountain, around 30 kilometres south-west of Hanoi. According to village history, water puppetry originated at the Thay Pagoda, where it was introduced by the monk Tu Dao Hanh in the 11th century. Puppetry is the traditional art form closely connected with the long-standing spiritual life of the Vietnamese people. The largest outside theatre is currently located in Thay Pagoda. Return to hotel and free at leisure.
Day 4 Hanoi – Halong (B,L,D)
In the morning, you will take a scenic drive to Halong and transfer by tender to the deluxe junk at Dinh Vu (Hai Phong)/TuanChau Island. Discover treasures such as fascinating caves, pristine beaches, picturesque floating villages, and dramatic rock formations rising up out of emerald water as we sail across the Bay of the Descending Dragon. Enjoy a relaxing afternoon on board. Dinner is onboard.
Day 5/ Halong Bay – Hanoi – Hue (B) VN 1545 HAN/HUI 6:00P 7:10P
There is a Tai Chi demonstration on the sundeck for early risers. Enjoy the buffet breakfast while sailing across thousands of islets. Cruise ends at Dinh Vu (Hai Phong)/TuanChau in late morning. Drive back to Hanoi airport for a flight to Hue, widely known for its monuments built under the Nguyen Dynasty (1802-1945). Upon arrival, local tour guide welcomes and transfers to the hotel in Hue check-in. Overnight in Hue.
Day 6/ City tour – Hue Court Music (B,L,D)
Morning we travel eastward along the city river to Thanh Toàn tile-roofed Bridge in Thanh Toàn village, about 8 km from Hue city. Leaving Thanh Toàn Village, we head to Vọng Cảnh Hill to take in a vista of the beautiful Perfume River. We stop for a rest at Hè Café. Its owner, Mr. Nguyen Van He is an artist and a war items collector. A short walk from Hè Café is Từ is Hiếu Pagoda, also known as the resting place of the Nguyen Dynasty’s eunuchs. Lunch at a local restaurant.
In the afternoon visit the former Imperial Citadel, the Forbidden Purple and Inner City, and the Royal Antiquities Musuem. This unique feudal capital is a setting of great natural beauty. Enjoy the Performance of Tuong, a Hue Court music and royal dance at Duyet Thi Duong Royal Theatre, (inside the Imperial Citadel) the most ancient theatre of Vietnam constructed in 1827. Tonight enjoy special home-style dinner at Mrs. Tuyet’s family.
Nha nhac, the court music of Hue, is an orthodox musical form which was considered the national music of the Nguyen Dynasty (1802-1945). Hue court music has been recognized by UNESCO as a Masterpiece of the Oral and Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity.
Day 7/ Cat Tuong Quan Zen House – Ben Xuan Garden Theatre (B,L,D)
Today we have a special meditation program at CTQ Zen House, located in the beautiful pine forest. Arrive and receive greetings from Cat Tuong Quan. We will listen to the introductions of architecture and the spiritual meaning of Cat Tuong Quan, followed by instruction of 4 movements of qigong. Enjoy brown-rice tea and dried ginger jam after the qigong lesson. Experiencing meditation helps you find bliss in mind and body. Then we sit and discuss culture, meditation, and other topics with the owner before enjoying vegetarian lunch. After lunch, wash hands with herb cream and do walking meditations. We can take photos, walk around the peaceful garden and say farewells to the owners. We may visit Dong Ba Market before transfer to enjoy special dinner with a recital at Ben Xuan Garden House Theatre.
Ben Xuan’s royal architecture style makes it fit well with the Cultural Heritages Thien Mu Pagoda and the Temple for Literature in the immediate environment on the river shore. Ben Xuan’s owners - Mrs. Camille Huyền (Artist, a native of Hue) and her husband Mr. Truong Dinh Ngo (retired Swiss Executive Banker, a native of Quang Tri) - who spent their professional life for more than forty years in West-Europe (Germany, France, and Switzerland), and now retired to Hue, will welcome you personally. Ben Xuan is conceptually designed as an East- West Cultural Meeting Point where you can enjoy an individual and authentic experience which brings to life the heritage of HUE in music, architecture, culture, beaux art, and in culinary art. Musical Soirée with Camille & her Ensemble can be organized for you before Lunch or Dinner.
Day 8/ Hue – Hoi An City tour – Timing mask workshop (B,D)
This morning we drive through Danang to Hoi An. Enjoy the beautiful scenery as we travel over the spectacular Hai Van Pass. Arrive in Hoi An, check into the hotel.
Afternoon, take a walking tour along Hoi An’s waterfront from the Japanese Covered Bridge to the main market then stop at the ancient house Tan Ky. Continue to the ornate Fu Kien Chinese temple and down to the Hoi An local market. We will visit the Timing Mask workshop of the paper mask artist Mr Bui Quy Phong. His craft is steadily disappearing as newer forms of entertainment have gradually taken over. Learn how this artist contributes to the effort of preserving his craft for future generations. Next, create a traditional folk mask under his guidance. Using specific patterns and colors, these masks communicate a vast array of character emotions in ‘tuong’ that you previously watched. Tonight enjoy dinner at an authentic local restaurant.
Day 9/ Red Bridge Cooking Class (B,L)
Today we join the cooking class at Red Bridge cooking school. We will enjoy a cup of coffee at Hai Scout Café then pay a visit to Hoi An’s colorful market where you will have the opportunity to learn about the ingredients used in the cooking lesson. Then take a boat for a leisurely cruise along the river to the Red Bridge cooking school. The 2-hour cooking lesson will demonstrate you how to make some of Hoian and Vietnam’s most well-known dishes. Your food preparations will become your lunch for the day. The rest of the afternoon is at leisure to explore the town on your own or relax.
This evening we enjoy 60-minute À Ố Show at the Hoi An Performing Centre. The Show (with 4 versions A O Show, My Village, Teh Dar, and The Mist) is performed by young talents who want to share the passion and dreams of upholding Vietnamese cultural heritage through performances and other forms of art. After the show, you can return to hotel for relax or explore the town on your own.
Day 10/ Hoi An – Danang – Saigon (B)
On the way to the airport for your flight to Saigon we will stop to visist the Cham Sculpture Museum in Danang. Arrive in Saigon and transfer to hotel check-in.
Day 11/ Saigon City tour – Truc Mai Traditional Music House (B,L,D)
Morning, take half day city tour, featuring the War Remnants Museum, City Post office, Reunification Palace, Fine Art Museum and Ben Thanh Market. Lunch will be served at local restaurant.
Afternoon, we will go to the home of Mr. and Mrs. Mai. Their stories of Vietnamese history and culture can be heard and understood through traditional music. Mr. Truc and Mrs. Ngo (husband and wife) are experts at playing the melodious traditional Vietnamese musical instruments (monochord zither, bamboo xylophone, stone lithophone….) and have been granted special permission to share their knowledge with guests in Vietnam. For an hour you will be taken on a journey back in time. Hear the instruments played and learn about the stories they tell. Then you will have a chance to have a go at playing some of the instruments yourself.
Then enjoy water puppet show, a traditional and unique Vietnamese art. Have dinner at local restaurant before return to hotel.
Day 12 Mekong Delta – “Dan ca tai tu” Southern folk music (B,L)
Today we drive to Cai Be (2,5 hours) and take boat trip to visit Cai Be floating market. We visit a village examining their traditional workshops making popped-rice cakes, rice paper and coconut candy. We then proceed to Tan Phong Island to visit workshops making country cottage roofs and other products such as baskets, bags, and hats from hyacynth. We have the option of biking on the island. Enjoy lunch with Mekong Delta specialties and enjoy Southern traditional music. Back to Saigon and overnight in Saigon.
Art of Don ca tai tu music and song in the South of Vietnam (hereinafter referred to as Don ca tai tu), Intangible Cultural Heritage, is a musical art that has both scholarly and folk roots. It developed in the South of Viet Nam in the late nineteenth century. Don ca tai tu resonates with the lifestyle of the Southern people who work on the land and rivers of the delta region. It reflects their inner feelings and emotions, industriousness, generosity and courage.
Day 13 Saigon – Depature (B)
Transfer to the airport for departure flight. Have a wonderful journey!