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Vietnam Express Northbound
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Ho Chi Minh City
Recently declared a World Heritage site, Hoi An is being beautifully restored and preserved. Known as Faifo to early western traders, it was one of South-East Asia's major international ports during the 17th, 18th and 19th centuries. Today, parts of Hoi An look exactly as they did more than a century ago. It's also a shopping mecca – with much to browse and buy.
Choose from original paintings, handcrafted woodwork, ceramics, embroidery, lanterns and more. Hoi An has also become famous for its tailoring, with a great variety of fabrics and tailors to choose from. Bring your favourite piece of clothing or even just a picture, and you'll be able to have it copied. On arrival, your tour leader will take you on an orientation walk around the Ancient Town. Explore the beautifully restored and preserved Chinese shop houses, enjoy the vibrant and busy market, visit Cua Dai Beach, cycle to the rice fields and browse the array of art galleries.
Departing Hoi An, cross the dramatic Hai Van Pass to the picturesque fishing village of Lang Co. After a quick stop, we continue on to Hue. The former imperial capital of Vietnam, Hue holds the treasures of Vietnam's royal past. As a motorbike passenger, start your tour with a visit to the Imperial Citadel, including the atmospheric ruins of the Forbidden Purple City, which was almost totally destroyed during the Vietnam War's Tet Offensive. Visit Thien Mu Pagoda, considered to be the unofficial symbol of Hue. It's an active Buddhist monastery with its origins dating back to 1601. One of the most poignant displays is a car belonging to a former monk who, in 1963, drove to Saigon and set himself alight to protest against the treatment of Buddhists by the South Vietnamese regime. Take a dragon boat cruise on the Perfume River and visit the royal tomb of Emperor Tu Duc, with its central lake set amid a grove of frangipani and pine trees.
Fly from Hue to Hanoi. The capital of Vietnam is a charming city with a population of over six million. Hanoi is famous for its beautiful lakes, shaded boulevards, verdant public parks and its thriving Old Quarter, which is an architectural museum piece with blocks of ochre buildings retaining the air of a 1930s provincial French town. As Vietnam develops to compete with other South-East Asian countries, the beautiful Hoan Kiem Lake reflects the contrasts of modern office buildings, old Buddhist temples and the tangle of ancient streets in its still surface. Visit the Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum complex, which includes the One Pillar Pagoda and the Ho Chi Minh Museum. The rest of the day is free to explore the city. Venture into the atmospheric Old Quarter to see the Vietnam of old, stroll the tree-lined boulevards to admire the French architecture or visit one of the many museums for some insight into the country's turbulent history.
Travel by private minibus to the spectacular World Heritage site of Halong Bay, a breathtaking secluded harbour with 2,000 limestone islands rising from the emerald waters of Bac Bo Gulf. One of Vietnam's most scenic regions, this area of about 1,500 sq km is dotted with innumerable beaches and grottos, created over thousands of years by waves and wind. Board your private boat with the tour group and cruise among the dramatic limestone peaks.
There's an opportunity to swim in the famed South China Sea (known locally as the East Sea), as well as to explore caves filled with stunning stalactites and stalagmites. Spend a peaceful night on board, beneath a night sky alive with stars. The junk boat has twin-share cabins that have air-conditioning and private facilities. There's also a dining room and bar where you'll enjoy a sumptuous lunch, dinner and breakfast.
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